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Psoriasis 

     Psoriasis is a common, chronic disease of the skin characterized by round, red, scaly plaques.  These plaques are usually covered by silvery scale.  Psoriasis plaques can occur anywhere on the body, but favors scalp, knees, and elbows.  It can also present in the nails, forming ridges and pits.  Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the U.S.  As many as 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis.

     Psoriasis is caused by the immune system sending faulty signals which cause skin cells to grow more rapidly than normal.  Psoriasis is not contagious.  Psoriasis can appear at any age, but is most commonly diagnosed between 15 and 30 years of age.  It can be triggered or worsened by a stressful event, strep infection, oral medication, weather changes, or trauma to the skin.


 There are five types of psoriasis:

  • Plaque- 80% of patients have this type.  Appears most commonly on elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.
  • Guttate- forms many very small plaques, often forms in childhood or as a young adult, and can suddenly appear after an infection or stressful event.
  • Inverse- forms bright red, shiny lesions usually on armpits, groin, and other skin folds.
  • Pustular- usually appears as white blisters filled with noninfectious pus, surrounded by red skin.  It can be localized such as on hands and feet, but can cover most of the body. 
  • Erythrodermic- usually affects most of the body surface, and presents as extremely red skin covered in sheets of scale. It can cause severe pain and itching, as well as fluctuations in body temperature.

     As many as 30% of patients with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis, causing painful, stiff, or swollen joints.  It usually occurs 5 to 12 years after initial psoriasis diagnosis.  Early recognition, diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis are critical to relieve pain and inflammation and help prevent progressive joint damage.

 

Plaque Psoriasis
Plaque Psoriasis

Severe Psoriasis on Scalp
Severe Psoriasis on Scalp

  Pustular Psoriasis on Palms
Pustular Psoriasis on Palms

     Treatment will vary depending on type and severity of psoriasis, and if the patient has joint involvement.  Options include topical creams and ointments, oral medications, injectable medications such as Humira®, Enbrel®, or Stelara®, as well as  Excimer laser therapy. 

     In some cases, a combination of two of more therapies can be the most effective treatment for psoriasis.  You and your provider will decide what option(s) will work best for you.




Here are the most credible sources for online information about psoriasis: 

National Psoriasis Foundation- Receive the latest information about psoriasis and current treatments.  Also provides support for friends and family of loved ones with psoriasis, and sign up for e-news about psoriasis updates:
http://www.psoriasis.org/  
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD):
http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/psoriasis