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Frequently Asked Questions About Psoriasis

Q: What is psoriasis?

A: Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, scaly skin that may feel painful, swollen or hot.

If you have psoriasis, you are more likely to acquire other conditions, including:

  • Psoriatic arthritis, a condition that causes joint pain and swelling
  • Cardiovascular problems, which affect the heart and blood circulation system
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes

Q: Who can get it?

A: Anyone can get psoriasis, but it is more common in adults. Certain genes have been linked to psoriasis, so you are more likely to get it if someone else in your family has it.

Q: Are there different types?

A: Yes. Here are some examples:

  • Plaque psoriasis, which causes patches of skin that are red at the base and covered by silvery scales.
  • Guttate psoriasis, which causes small, drop-shaped lesions on your trunk, limbs, and scalp. This type of psoriasis is most often triggered by upper respiratory infections, such as strep throat.
  • Pustular psoriasis, which causes pus-filled blisters. Attacks or flares can be caused by medications, infections, stress, or certain chemicals.
  • Inverse psoriasis, which causes smooth, red patches in folds of skin near the genitals, under the breasts or in the armpits. Rubbing and sweating can make this type of psoriasis worse.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis, which causes red and scaly skin over much of your body. This can be a reaction to a bad sunburn or taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids. It can also happen if you have a different type of psoriasis that is not well controlled. This type of psoriasis can be very serious, so if you have it, you should see a doctor immediately.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Psoriasis usually causes patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales that itch or feel sore. These patches can show up anywhere on your body, but they usually occur on the elbows, knees, legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of your feet. They can also show up on your fingernails and toenails, genitals, and inside your mouth. You may find that your skin gets worse for a while, which is called a flare, and then it improves.

Q: What is it caused by?

A: Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means that your body’s immune system — which protects you from diseases — starts overacting and causing problems. If you have psoriasis, a type of white blood cells called the T cells become so active that they trigger other immune system responses, including swelling and fast turnover of skin cells.

Your skin cells grow deep in the skin and rise slowly to the surface. This is called cell turnover, and it usually takes about a month. If you have psoriasis, though, cell turnover can take only a few days. Your skin cells rise too fast and pile up on the surface, causing your skin to look red and scaly.

Some things may cause a flare, meaning your psoriasis becomes worse for a while, including:

  • stress
  • infection
  • weather changes
  • medications
  • cuts, scratches or sunburns

Q: Is there a test for psoriasis?

A: Psoriasis can be hard to diagnose because it can look like other skin diseases. Your doctor may look at a small sample of your skin under a microscope to help them figure out if psoriasis is causing your skin condition.

Q: How is it treated?

A: There are several different types of treatment for psoriasis. Your doctor may recommend that you try one of these or a combination of them:

  • Topical treatment, which means putting creams on your skin.
  • Light therapy, which involves a doctor shining an ultraviolet light on your skin or getting more sunlight. It’s important that a doctor controls the amount of light you are getting from this therapy, because too much ultraviolet light may make your psoriasis worse.
  • Systemic treatment, which can include taking prescription medicines or getting shots of medicine.

Q: How can you live with this condition?

A: Dr. Thushan DeSilva says, “Although psoriasis is a chronic disease, there have been many advances in treatment to make the condition more manageable. Additionally, keep your skin moisturized and take care of your general health overall.”

If you have —or think you may have — psoriasis, schedule an appointment today with DeSilva Dermotology.

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