Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin disease in which the growth of skin cells is speeded up -- leading to excessive skin production in some areas – due to wrong signals sent out by the immune system. Those suffering from Psoriasis generally have red, scaly patches on their skin.

The scaly patches, which are also known as psoriatic plaques, can occur on the outer side of the knees, elbows, palms, scalp, genitals and soles of feet. Psoriasis can also lead to joints inflammation, also known as psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis mostly occurs on dry skin.

Psoriasis can by graded into mild, moderate and severe categories. In mild Psoriasis, less than three percent of the body is affected while three percent to ten percent of the body is affected in the moderate category. When more than ten percent of the body is affected by Psoriasis, it comes under severe category.

Classification of Psoriasis

  • Non-pustular Psoriasis is of two types – Psoriasis Vulgaris or Plaque Psoriasis and Psoriatic Erythroderma. In Psoriasis Vulgaris, the affected skin gets raised and is covered with silvery white scaly skin. In Psoriatic Erythroderma, there is widespread inflammation, swelling, itching, exfoliation of skin and pain over most parts of the body. This type of Psoriasis can be deadly as due to the disorder, the body is not able to regulate body temperature and skin is unable to perform barrier functions.
  • Pustular psoriasis generally occurs on hands and feet. The affected skin looks like raised bumps containing pus which is non-infectious.
  • There are other types of Psoriasis – Drug-induced Psoriasis, Inverse Psoriasis, Napkin Psoriasis, Nail Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis.

Causes of Psoriasis:

Psoriasis can be caused due to genetic factors and immunological factors.

  • Genetic Factors: Psoriasis can be caused due to hereditary factors. The genes involving the immune system like T Cells and Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) are mostly responsible for causing Psoriasis.
  • Immunological Factors: The immune cells of the patient affected by Psoriasis, which go to the epidermis from the dermis, give faulty signals to the skin cells, provoking them to proliferate and leading to overproduction of skin in certain parts of the body and the disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis

Itching, some physical discomfort and pain can be experienced by those suffering from Psoriasis. Small bumps, red patches, thick layers of raised skin or flakes on the dry skin that wear off are some of the signs that can be seen on those suffering from Psoriasis. For those affected with scalp psoriasis, severe dandruff along with red skin may be seen.

Diagnosis of Psoriasis:

Psoriasis can only be diagnosed by the skin specialist by looking at the appearance of the skin. The skin specialist may scrape the skin or conduct biopsy to rule other skin diseases and to diagnose Psoriasis. However, no blood tests or other procedures are conducted to diagnose Psoriasis.

Treatment of Psoriasis:

Doctors generally rotate the therapies for the treatment of Psoriasis so that it does not become resistant to one particular therapy. Some of the therapies used to treat Psoriasis are:

  1. Topical Treatment: Dryness of the skin can be reduced and the affected skin can be soothed by applying moisturizers, bath solutions, petroleum jelly and mineral oil. Applying medicated ointments and creams in the affected parts of the skin can help in reducing inflammation, removal of built-up scale and removal of psoriasis plaques. However, topical treatment is time consuming and it may lead to irritation, has a strong odour and can stain clothing. If withdrawn abruptly, topical treatment may lead to recurrence of the disease.
  2. Phototherapy: Exposure to sunlight for a short duration everyday is known as Phototherapy. Phototherapy helps in improving the symptoms of Psoriasis. Ultra-violet B rays of the sunlight is found to be beneficial for treatment of Psoriasis. Exposure to UVB lamps – Narrowband UVB or Broadband UVB – is generally combined with systemic or topical treatment.
  3. Photochemotherapy: Photochemotherapy involves exposure to ultraviolet A rays and administration of psoralen orally or topically. It is also known as PUVA or Psoralen and Ultraviolet A phototherapy.
  4. Systemic Treatment: Medications are taken through pills or an injection if Psoriasis is resistant to phototherapy and topical treatment. There are three main systemic treatments – methotrexate, retinoids and cyclosporine.

Psoriasis cannot be completely cured but its symptoms can be reduced with the help of different therapies depending on the severity of the condition.