Psoriasis is a serious medical condition that affects the autoimmune system. About 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, that’s 2 out of every 100 people.
There are five types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular and erythrodermic. The most common form, which affects about 80 percent of people who have the condition, is called plaque psoriasis. It is characterized by patches of raised, reddish skin covered with silvery-white scales.
The skin lesions form because faulty signals in the immune system cause the skin cells to grow too quickly forming in days rather than weeks. The excess skin cells pile up on the skin resulting in the plaques of psoriasis. Psoriasis usually occurs on the scalp, knees, elbows, lower back and groin area, but can occur on any part of the body. Psoriasis can also affect the nails and about 50% of people who develop psoriasis will see changes in their fingernails and/or toenails such as pitting, ridging, or a yellowish-orange discoloration.
Psoriasis is not contagious. You cannot get psoriasis from touching someone who has psoriasis, swimming in the same pool, or even intimate contact.
Psoriasis is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. Up to 30% of people with psoriasis may have symptoms of arthritis. Without treatment, psoriatic arthritis can progress and become debilitating; early treatment can prevent joint deterioration so it is important to see your dermatologist if joint pain develops.
Treatment of psoriasis is based on a patient’s health, age, lifestyle, and the severity of the psoriasis. Although there is no cure for psoriasis, treatment can greatly improve or “clear” psoriasis in even the most severe cases.