Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects approximately 3% of the U.S. population. It’s characterized most commonly by the appearance of dry, thickened skin patches. This chronic condition is not contagious, meaning it can’t be transmitted from one person to another. Scientists believe psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, which means it occurs due to a person’s overactive immune system attacking their body’s own healthy cells.
Psoriasis is generally diagnosed by a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin conditions) because they can differentiate between this condition and others it may be commonly confused with, such as eczema. While there is no cure for this condition, people with psoriasis can manage their symptoms with a variety of treatment options. August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. Now is the prime time to educate yourself about this condition.
Subtypes of Psoriasis
There are several subtypes of psoriasis: plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, nail psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, pustular psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Each subtype varies in presentation and severity. Additionally, the severity of this condition may vary greatly from person to person. A dermatologist can accurately identify which subtype of psoriasis you have and ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment for it.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis. It causes thick, raised patches of skin known as “plaques” to form. The plaques may be covered by scales, which appear as thin, silver-white pieces of skin. Plaques may differ in size and tend to occur in clusters. Most commonly, these plaques are found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back area.
Guttate psoriasis is characterized by small, reddish-pink bumps that arise suddenly and typically affect large areas of the torso, arms and legs. This type of psoriasis occurs more commonly in children and young adults following an infection such as strep throat. Guttate psoriasis tends to clear itself within several weeks or months and generally doesn’t require treatment. In some cases, the condition never returns; however, in others, it can flare again later in life.
Inverse psoriasis occurs most commonly in areas of skin-to-skin contact, such as the underarm region, genitals and area between the buttocks. It’s characterized by red, raw-appearing skin that’s sore and, in some cases, painful to the touch. This form of psoriasis is also known as intertriginous or flexural psoriasis.
Pustular psoriasis can be generalized (affecting large areas of the body) or localized (affecting only certain areas). Generalized pustular psoriasis is known to worsen quickly and can cause fever, chills, sweating, severe itching and muscle weakness. Localized pustular psoriasis affects the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
Erythrodermic psoriasis causes thick, red and inflamed patches that cover most of the skin. This type of psoriasis is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. People who develop erythrodermic psoriasis may already have another subtype of psoriasis. However, it’s particularly life-threatening because it can cause hypothermia by preventing skin from retaining warmth. Other symptoms include body chills, fever, tachycardia (fast pulse), severe itching, muscle weakness and skin that appears burned due to the extent of the inflammation.
Nail psoriasis often accompanies psoriasis in other regions of the body. It’s estimated that half of people with plaque psoriasis see nail symptoms, such as small dents in the nail, discoloration beneath the nail, nail lifting or brittle and rough nails.
Psoriasis can also affect a person’s joints in a condition that’s known as psoriatic arthritis. This form of psoriasis occurs most commonly alongside severe skin psoriasis. It’s characterized by joint pain, swelling around the joints (particularly the ankle and heel areas) and stiffness that feels worse in the morning.
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis
Symptoms of psoriasis vary by subtype and may present in many ways. They may commonly look like:
Thickened areas of dry skin that appear red or pink
Itchy, flaky or scaly areas
Small, reddish-pink bumps
Clusters of thickened, rash-like patches on the elbows, knees, ears or scalp
Flaky skin on the scalp
Nail crumbling or discoloration
More than one area of the body can develop symptoms at the same time. These symptoms can develop slowly or suddenly. Scratching or aggravating the skin may worsen symptoms of irritation.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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