Psoriasis is a genetically-determined inflammatory skin condition characterised by red scaly rashes of skin. It occurs because skin cells grow too quickly, but don’t shed off normally – resulting in thickened ‘plaques’. An over-active immune system is also responsible for the development of psoriasis, which can be thought of as an auto-immune condition.
Psoriasis has many different varieties and appearances, and can affect the scalp, nails, skin folds, palms and soles, as well as the more typical locations such as the elbows, knees and lower back.
It is most common in adults, but can also present in childhood, when it is particularly difficult for children to cope with.
Unfortunately, there is no single cause of psoriasis. It tends to develops in people who have an inherited predisposition for an abnormal immune response in their skin. It is more common in people who have relatives with psoriasis, and affects about 2% of the population.
Psoriasis may be triggered for the first time by infections such as streptococcal tonsillitis, HIV and other viral infections as well as by severe stress. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake may aggravate psoriasis, as can a number of medications. Regular exercise, a healthy and well-balanced diet, and moderation of alcohol consumption are always recommended. Psoriasis is not contagious, but its appearance can be very upsetting, uncomfortable and embarrassing.
For the most part, psoriasis can cause itching, flaking, bleeding, discomfort and interfere with daily activities such as work, exercise and relationships. Patients often try to ‘cover up’ their psoriasis, which in turn causes significant impact on self-esteem, clothing and quality of life.
Psoriasis that affects the nails, can cause them to become brittle, misshapen and deformed – impacting on simple things like typing, playing instruments and cooking. Nail damage is often an indicator that there psoriasis affecting the joints as well.
Psoriatic arthritis can cause joint pain, swelling, stiffness and deformity. It is a serious complication of psoriasis, as it is ‘erosive’ which means it can irreversibly damage joints and tendons. Many patients with psoriasis often put their joint pain ‘down to old age’, when in fact they suffer from a treatable form of arthritis that has not been properly recognised.
In addition to psoriasis arthritis, people with psoriasis may struggle with excess weight, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and Crohn’s disease.
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, Southern Dermatology offers a range of effective treatments that are tailored to the individual patient. Our doctors may prescribe a range of treatments including: