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Psoriasis – Images, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Updated on October 3, 2013

Psoriasis is a widely-prevalent skin disorder that alters the life cycle of cells present in the skin. The disease causes rapid accumulation of cells on the skin surface resulting in development of dense silvery scales, as well as reddish, dry, and itchy patches that are occasionally painful.

Psoriasis is a chronic and persistent condition. Patients may experience long periods wherein the symptoms show improvement, or wherein the disease alternates between aggravation and remission states.

Some patients may find psoriasis to be only bothersome, while others may find it debilitating, particularly when it occurs along with arthritis. The disease has no cure, but the different treatment options offer substantial relief from the symptoms. Contact with limited sunlight, use of mild cortisone creams, and other lifestyle changes can help alleviate the adverse symptoms.

Difference between psoriasis and eczema

  • Psoriasis has genetic causes. On the other hand, eczema is a skin condition caused by allergic reactions due to contact with irritants like soaps and detergents.
  • Psoriasis is identified by the presence of patchy and dry skin, which can occasionally be elevated. There may be bleeding and the affected areas may or may not itch. Eczema results in flaky and dry skin that is very itchy.
  • In addition to the skin defects, psoriasis can also be associated with joint arthritic pains. Eczema restricts itself to the skin.
  • Psoriasis has no cure. Eczema can be completely cured by avoiding the irritants and use of medications.

Symptoms of psoriasis

The signs and symptoms of psoriasis can differ from one affected individual to another. Some common symptoms include:

  • Reddened skin patches that are covered in silvery scales
  • Burning sensations, itchiness, or soreness
  • Broken dry skin that may occasionally bleed
  • Stiff and inflamed joints
  • Tiny scaling spots may be seen, especially in affected children
  • Rough, thick, or grooved nails

The abnormal patches of psoriasis can be restricted to some spots that show flaky scaling, or they can be full-fledged and cover large parts of the body. Mild instances are only inconvenient, but extreme cases can be disfiguring, very painful, and debilitating.

A majority of psoriasis cases tend to follow a cycle consisting of flare-ups for some weeks or months, then waning of symptoms or even full remission for some time. The disease however ultimately makes a return.

Causes of psoriasis

Psoriasis is not a contagious disease. It cannot spread from one individual to another via touch or other forms of physical contact.

The exact cause of psoriasis is still a matter of research. Scientists believe that the interaction of the immune system with the environment in persons having a genetic vulnerability to the disease can play a possible role in development of psoriasis. T cells are white blood cells that occur throughout the body and help fight infections. Researchers state that the T cells in patients of psoriasis mistakenly attack the healthy cells.

The overactive T cells then trigger other responses from the immune system, such as buildup of white blood cells in the upper skin layer and dilation of skin blood vessels. Such changes in turn lead to additional production of T cells, healthy skin cells, and other WBCs. This causes a chain reaction wherein the newly formed skin cells travel too early to the outermost layer, another batch of skin cells and other cells are made, and so on. The WBCs and dead skin cells cannot match the speed of production and hence cannot slough off quick enough, eventually causing the characteristic thick, scaly patches on skin.The vicious cycle can only be interrupted and stopped by varied treatment options.

Researchers are currently not sure about the causes of such malfunction of the T cells. It is however believed that environmental and genetic factors are linked to it.

An instance of psoriasis can be triggered by different factors as discussed below:

  • A scrape or cut to the skin, intense sunburn, a bug bite or other such skin injuries
  • Thrush, strep throat, or similar bacterial and viral infections
  • Cold weather conditions
  • Elevated levels of stress
  • Excessive smoking
  • Some medications like hypertension drugs, iodides, lithium, and antimalarial medicines
  • Increased consumption of alcohol
  • Obesity

A family history of psoriasis is one of the greatest risk factors to developing psoriasis. Nearly 40 percent of the individuals suffering from the condition have relatives who are afflicted by psoriasis.

Treatment of psoriasis

The main aim of psoriasis treatment is the reduction of plaque development and inflammation by interrupting the cycle of excessive skin cells production. Furthermore, treatment also focuses at removal of the scales and smoothening of the skin via use of topical medications.

  • Mild cases of psoriasis can be treated with creams and ointments such as topical retinoids, anthralin, vitamin D analogues, coal tar, topical corticosteroids, salicylic acid, calcineurin inhibitors, and moisturizers.
  • Severe cases additionally require oral or injected medications and light therapy.Thioguanine, methotrexate, retinoids, hydroxyurea, cyclosporine, and Immunomodulator drugs can be administered orally.
  • Light therapy involves brief contact with sunlight, Goeckerman therapy, UVB phototherapy, narrowband UVB therapy, psoralen plus ultraviolet A therapy, pulsed dye laser, excimer laser, and combination light therapy.

Psoriasis Pictures


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