What is psoriasis and who is affected?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition, which affects nearly 2 million people in the UK and Ireland. It is equally common in men and women and often develops between the ages of 15 and 35, but can occur at any age.
Psoriasis symptoms recur in alternating phases with or without symptoms. Typically, red scaly patches appear on the surface of the skin, accompanied by severe itchiness and irritation. Common psoriasis symptoms include:
· Thick, red patches on the surface of the skin, often covered with silvery scales
· Itching, burning or sore skin
· Dry or cracked skin – which may lead to bleeding
A common misconception about psoriasis is that that the disease is contagious and can be passed on from one person to another through physical contact. This false misunderstanding causes a great deal of social exclusion, discrimination and stigma, all of which can add to the challenge of living with the skin condition.
The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown, but experts believe that genetics, environmental factors, and the immune system play a role in the formation of the disease. Psoriasis may be caused by faulty signals originating in the immune system, causing new skin cells to form in days rather than weeks. This results in a build-up of dead skin cells, which leads to abovementioned symptoms.
Psoriasis flare-ups can be triggered by a range of factors. While there is limited evidence of any direct correlation, keeping clear of alcohol, smoking, stress and certain food groups which increase inflammation are believed by some to prevent flare-ups. Eating such foods – such as fatty red meats, dairy products, processed foods, refined sugars and nightshade vegetables – can potentially worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. People affected by psoriasis may also benefit from avoiding certain medicaments as well as protecting their skin from injuries such as caused by trauma, tattoos or shaving.
Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body, but is most likely to affect the elbows, knees, scalp, hands or feet. There are a total of seven different types of psoriasis:
· Plaque psoriasis
· Scalp psoriasis
· Guttate psoriasis
· Pustular psoriasis
· Inverse (flexural) psoriasis
· Erythrodermic psoriasis
· Psoriatic arthritis
Some people will experience only the mildest physical symptoms, with occasional patches from time to time, while for others the physical symptoms can be much more frequent and severe.
Related conditions of psoriasis
Due to a lack of understanding and public awareness of psoriasis, the condition is often misunderstood. Far from being ‘just a skin condition’, psoriasis is associated with a number of serious health conditions, both physical and psychological, such as diabetes, depression, cancer or cardiovascular disease. In some cases, the discomfort and appearance of psoriasis can hold individuals back, causing them difficulties in their everyday routine and affecting their quality of life.
Wherever you are on the spectrum, it is important to remember that the condition can be managed and there are several effective treatments for psoriasis that can improve the appearance of symptoms. If you use a medication specifically prescribed for your psoriasis in the correct way, it is possible to control your condition and focus on feeling confident and getting the most out of your life. From over-the-counter creams, to prescription tablets, biologics and light therapy – there is no need to suffer in silence. Different therapies are often combined to help ease the impact of the condition, so make sure you communicate with your doctor to make sure you find the best treatment that works for you.
UK/IE MAT-09232 Date of prep: May 2017