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Psoriasis Treatments from U.S. Dermatology Partners

What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes patches of skin to become red, inflamed and bumpy. This disease affects more than 6 million people in the U.S.

Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakes skin cells for a virus or other infection and responds by producing more skin cell growth. This can be triggered by stress, anxiety, injuries to the skin, infections and hormonal changes.

Psoriasis on elbow.

Common triggers of psoriasis include stress and infections.

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Who Is at Risk for Psoriasis?

Psoriasis affects both men and women equally. Though it is most common in people between the ages of 15 and 30, and again between the ages of 50 and 60, psoriasis can begin at any time.

People with cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome are more likely to develop psoriasis, and it is also believed to be genetic, as individuals who have a parent with psoriasis are 15 percent more likely to develop it.

Psoriasis goes through cycles of improving and worsening, which is called a “flare.” Some common triggers of outbreaks of psoriasis may include:

  • Stress
  • Infection (such as strep throat or staph)
  • Medications (lithium, beta blockers, anti-malarial drugs)
  • Skin injuries (bruises, shaving, chafing, tattoos or sunburn)
  • Other skin conditions (scabies, blisters, dermatitis)
  • Cold weather, indoor heating
  • Hormones
  • Smoking and excessive drinking

Psoriasis Symptoms

Psoriasis often occurs on the elbows.

Psoriasis often occurs on the elbows.

Psoriasis is characterized by dry, scaly flakes on the skin. The skin cells shed and collect on the skin’s surface, causing red, flaky, crusty patches covered in silvery scales. These scales shed easily, and you may also experience intense itching and burning.

Psoriasis mostly occurs on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp, though patches can appear anywhere. There are five common forms of psoriasis:

  • Plaque Psoriasis – The most common form of psoriasis. It is often found on the elbows, knees, scalp or lower back. Affected skin appears red and inflamed with a coating of silvery “plaques.”
  • Pustular Psoriasis – Commonly seen on the hands and feet. Appears as areas of redness marked by small white blisters.
  • Guttate Psoriasis – Affects almost 10 percent of patients with psoriasis. Inflammation resembles a rash with skin marked by small red dots.
  • Erythrodermic Psoriasis – The most severe form of psoriasis that affects only 3 percent of those who develop the disorder. Inflammation is widespread, may be painful, and flare-ups require immediate medical attention.

Psoriasis Treatment

There are several ways to treat psoriasis depending on the severity of your condition.

Systemic therapies include using medications taken either by mouth or injection, while topical treatments are applied directly to the skin and aim to sooth inflammation and slow down the growth of skin cells. Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, uses ultraviolet light to penetrate the skin and slow the growth of cells.

Treatment is generally started with a mild topical cream and progresses to more powerful treatments if necessary.

Psoriasis Prevention

Exercise can help reduce stress, which can trigger an inflammatory reaction.

Exercise can help reduce stress, which can trigger an inflammatory reaction.

Psoriasis symptoms may come and go over time. Since there is no known cure, the following steps are recommended to prevent flare-ups:

  • Reduce stress, which can trigger an inflammatory reaction.
  • Avoid infections and limit your exposure to people who are sick, especially children.
  • Eat a healthy diet, as processed foods can create inflammation in the body.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can exacerbate psoriasis.

You may also want to talk to a nutritionist and consider taking supplements to boost your overall immune function.

*Results may vary by individual

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