Psoriasis (sore-EYE-ah-sis)
is a chronic (long-lasting) disease. It develops when a person’s immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly. New skin cells form in days rather than weeks and the body does not shed these excess skin cells. The skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin, causing patches of psoriasis to appear. Psoriasis may look contagious, but it is not - you cannot get psoriasis from touching someone who has it. To get psoriasis, a person must inherit the genes that cause it.  What you specifically see and feel depends on the type of psoriasis you have. 

Who gets psoriasis?
People who get psoriasis usually have one or more person in their family who has psoriasis. Not everyone who has a family member with psoriasis will get psoriasis. In the United States, about 7.5 million people have psoriasis. Most people, about 80%, have plaque-type psoriasis. Psoriasis can begin at any age but most people get psoriasis between 15 and 30 years of age. Another common time for psoriasis to begin is between 50 and 60 years of age. Whites tend to get psoriasis more often than other races.  Infants and young children are more likely to get inverse or guttate psoriasis.

What causes psoriasis?
Scientists are still trying to learn everything that happens inside the body to cause psoriasis. We know that psoriasis is not contagious and that it is primarily a genetic condition.  Scientists have learned that a person’s immune system and genes play important roles. Scientists also know that not everyone who inherits the genes for psoriasis will get psoriasis. It seems that a person must inherit the “right” mix of genes and then the person must be exposed to a trigger.

Many people say that their psoriasis began after they experienced one of the common psoriasis triggers such as a stressful event, Strep throat, taking certain medicines such as lithium or antimalarials, cold weather, or a cut, scratch or bad sunburn.

How do dermatologists diagnose psoriasis?
To diagnose psoriasis, a dermatologist examines a patient’s skin, nails, and scalp for signs of psoriasis.  Also taking a family history and learning what has been happening in the patient’s life.  A dermatologist may want to know whether a patient has been under a lot of stress, had a recent illness, or just started taking a medicine.  Sometimes a dermatologist also removes a bit of skin (biopsy) to confirm the diagnosis.

How do dermatologists treat psoriasis?
Treating psoriasis has benefits. Treatment can reduce signs and symptoms of psoriasis, which usually makes a person feel better. With treatment, some people see their skin completely clear and it can even improve a person’s quality of life.  Thanks to ongoing research, there are many treatments available. It is important to work with a dermatologist to find treatment that works for you and fits your lifestyle. Every treatment has benefits, drawbacks, and possible side effects. Before you see a dermatologist for treatment, it helps to know about the treatment options. This knowledge will help you work with your dermatologist to create a treatment plan that is right for you.

Outcome
Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system. It cannot be cured. This means that most people have psoriasis for life. By teaming up with a dermatologist who treats psoriasis, you can find a treatment plan that works for you. Dermatologists encourage their patients who have psoriasis to take an active role in managing this disease. By taking an active role, you can reduce the effects that psoriasis has on your quality of life.

Tips
Psoriasis is a long-lasting disease. Here are some things you can do that will help you take control.
  • Learn about psoriasis. Knowledge really is power. Learning about psoriasis will help you manage the disease, make informed decisions about how you treat psoriasis, and avoid things that can make psoriasis worse. It will also help you talk about psoriasis with others.
  • Take good care of yourself. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, and drinking very little alcohol will help. Smoking, drinking, and being overweight make psoriasis worse and can also make treatment less effective. People who have psoriasis also have an increased risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases, so taking good care of yourself is essential.
  • Be aware of your joints. If your joints feel stiff and sore, especially when you wake up, see a dermatologist. Stiff or sore joints can be the first sign of psoriatic (sore-EE-at-ic) arthritis. Between 10% and 30% of people who get psoriasis, get this type of arthritis. Treatment is essential because this type of arthritis can erode away the joints.
  • Notice your nails. If your nails begin to pull away from the nail bed or develop pitting, ridges, or a yellowish-orange color, see a dermatologist. These are signs of psoriatic arthritis.
  • Pay attention to your mood. If you feel depressed, you may want to join a psoriasis support group or see a mental health professional. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal behavior are more common in people who have psoriasis. Getting help is not a sign of weakness.
  • Learn about treatment for psoriasis. Some people choose not to treat psoriasis, but it is important to know your options. This will help you make an informed decision and feel in control.


Support group
National Psoriasis Foundation

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