The country’s most common autoimmune disease, psoriasis is a skin disease characterized by red, scaly patches of skin that can crop up anywhere on the body. In addition to being painful and itchy, the condition also affects quality of life and self-esteem. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), the disease most often shows itself between the ages of 15 and 25. However, psoriasis can indeed appear at any age. For those unaffected by psoriasis, new skin cells originate deep within the skin and gradually rise to the surface over the span of about a month. Psoriasis accelerates this process, causing skin cells to accumulate on the surface at an abnormal rate. These skin outbreaks are often red, scaly and itchy in nature. In some cases, they become dry and cracked and may result in bleeding. The condition can also affect the nails, causing a thickening or ridging effect.
Different types of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can be broken down into three categories, according to the NPF:
- Mild psoriasis affects less than 3 percent of the body.
- Moderate psoriasis affects 3 to 10 percent of the body.
- Severe psoriasis affects greater than 10 percent of the body. The NPF reports that nearly 25 percent of cases fall into the moderate to severe range.
Psoriasis is both a dermatological condition and an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system turns on itself, attacking healthy cells. This results in the red, scaly patches of skin most commonly associated with psoriasis. A precise cause of psoriasis remains unclear, but many factors can trigger this autoimmune response. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, psoriasis outbreaks can be jump started by: * Infections * Stress * Conditions that cause dry skin including weather changes * Some medical conditions The NPF reports that, on average, over half of those affected by psoriasis will miss roughly 26 days of work each year due to their illness.
Treating the skin outbreaks associated with psoriasis is not an exact science and has varying success, depending on the individual. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the following treatment approaches are most commonly used to combat psoriasis:
- Creams and ointments – Topical treatments can help relieve itching and pain, suppress the immune system and improve inflammation.
- Light therapy – Exposure to ultraviolet light has been shown to improve psoriasis symptoms in some people.
- Systemic treatment – For those with severe psoriasis, prescription medication administered via a shot is the best approach.
- Combination therapy – This approach is exactly what it sounds like and involves combining the treatments mentioned above.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, roughly 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis.