Types of Psoriasis and Treatment Options
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder where rapid skin cell reproduction results in raised, red and scaly patches of skin. It is not contagious. It most commonly affects the skin on the elbows, knees, and scalp, though it can appear anywhere on the body.
Who Can Get Psoriasis?
Anyone can have psoriasis. About 7.5 million people in the U.S. are affected, and it occurs equally in men and women. Psoriasis can occur at any age but is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 to 25. It is more frequent in Caucasians.
Psoriasis is a non-curable, chronic skin condition and there will be periods where the condition will improve, and other times it will worsen. The symptoms can range from mild, small, faint dry skin patches where a person may not suspect they have a skin condition to severe psoriasis where a person's entire body may be nearly covered with thick, red, scaly skin plaques.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The cause of psoriasis is unknown but a number of risk factors are suspected. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to inheriting the illness, as psoriasis is often found in family members. Environmental factors may play a part in conjunction with the immune system. The triggers for psoriasis – what causes certain people to develop it – remain unknown.
What Does Psoriasis Look Like?
Psoriasis usually appears as red or pink plaques of raised, thick, scaly skin. However it can also appear as small flat bumps, or large thick plaques, ,. It most commonly affects the skin on the elbows, knees, and scalp, though it can appear anywhere on the body. The following slides will review some of the different types of psoriasis.
The most common form of psoriasis that affects about 80% of all sufferers is psoriasis vulgaris ("vulgaris" means common). It is also referred to as plaque psoriasis because of the well-defined areas of raised red skin that characterize this form. These raised red plaques have a flaky, silver-white buildup on top called scale, made up of dead skin cells. The scale loosens and sheds frequently.
Psoriasis that has small, salmon-pink colored drops on the skin is guttate psoriasis, affecting about 10% of people with psoriasis. There is usually a fine silver-white buildup (scale) on the drop-like lesion that is finer than the scale in plaque psoriasis. This type of psoriasis if commonly triggered by a streptococcal (bacterial) infection. About two to three weeks following a bout of strep throat, a person's lesions may erupt. This outbreak can go away and may never recur.
Is Psoriasis Curable?
Right now there is no cure for psoriasis. The disease can go into remission where there are no symptoms or signs present. Current research is underway for better treatments and a possible cure.
Can I Pass Psoriasis on to My Children?
Psoriasis can be passed on from parents to children, as there is a genetic component to the disease. Psoriasis tends to run in families and often this family history is helpful in making a diagnosis.
What Kind of Doctor Treats Psoriasis?
There are several types of doctors who may treat psoriasis. Dermatologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psoriasis. Rheumatologists specialize in the treatment of joint disorders, including psoriatic arthritis. Family physicians, internal medicine physicians, rheumatologists, dermatologists, and other medical doctors may all be involved in the care and treatment of patients with psoriasis.
Medical Treatment – Topical Agents
The first line of treatment for psoriasis includes topical medications applied to the skin. The main topical treatments are corticosteroids (cortisone creams, gels, liquids, sprays, or ointments), vitamin D-3 derivatives, coal tar, anthralin, or retinoids. These drugs may lose potency over time so often they are rotated or combined. Ask you doctor before combining medications, as some drugs should not be combined.
What Is the Long-Term Prognosis in Patients With Psoriasis?
The prognosis for patients with psoriasis is good. Though the condition is chronic and is not curable, it can be controlled effectively in many cases. Studies for future treatments look promising and research to find ways to battle psoriasis is ongoing.