What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis occurs when the immune system overreacts causing an inflammatory response that causes normal skin cells to grow more rapidly.

Symptoms and signs of Psoriasis

Psoriasis symptoms will vary from person to person and by type of Psoriasis. Some of the common plaque Psoriasis symptoms include:

  • Raised, red, inflamed patches (plaques)
  • Silvery scaly plaques
  • Dry flaking skin
  • Some people may experience itchiness
  • Some people experience nail changes.

Cycles, flare ups and triggers

Most types of Psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission.

Common factors that aggravate Psoriasis include:

  • Stress
  • Tonsillitis and other infections
  • Injuries such as cuts, abrasions, sunburn
  • Certain medications such as lithium, anti-malarials, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and certain medicines to treat high blood pressure (beta-blockers)
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Obesity.

What causes Psoriasis?

It is not known what causes Psoriasis. It does run in families and it is associated with arthritis. This makes it likely that it has a genetic origin, operating through the immune system of the body.

The skin symptoms typical of psoriasis are due to abnormal cell growth. In normal skin, cells matures in 28 to 30 days. In Psoriasis, skin cell are made ten times as fast. This means they don’t have enough time to mature. As a result, the immature cells to stick together, creating the thick scales seen in Psoriasis.

How is Psoriasis diagnosed?

There is no single test for Psoriasis, so your doctor will make a diagnosis after talking to you about your symptoms and carefully examining your skin. To rule out other potential causes, they may require a small skin sample (biopsy). You may be referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist) for a confirmed diagnosis and treatment.

Talk with your doctor

We’ve put together a checklist that you can take along to your dermatologist visit to discuss symptoms and treatment options.

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