Psoriasis: An overview and some basic facts

Get the information you need to get your psoriasis under control

Having psoriasis diagnosed can be a lot to take on board and leave you feeling a little overwhelmed. You may feel relieved that, at last, your condition has a name and you are on the way to managing it successfully. However, this relief may often be mixed with feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and even depression.

Everyone's experience of psoriasis will be different, varying from very mild occasional patches and itching to much more severe physical symptoms.

If you have psoriasis, you don’t have to just put up with it. Getting support, and learning as much as you can about the condition, will help ensure that you have the information you need to control your psoriasis and to feel confident with your skin again.

What exactly is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that make new skin cells grow too quickly. With psoriasis, the normal cycle of skin cells, which usually takes about a month, is sped up to a cycle that is completed in just a matter of a few days. The body does not shed these excess skin cells, so the cells pile up on the surface of the skin and ‘plaques’ form. The two characteristic features of psoriasis are: excessive skin cell growth and inflammation.

There are seven types of psoriasis. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white build-up of dead skin cells. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and may, in some cases, be associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Each person’s experience of psoriasis will be different. Some people will experience only the mildest physical symptoms, with occasional patches and itching, while for others the physical symptoms can be much more severe. Similarly the emotional impact affects people differently.  

How many people are affected?

Anyone can develop psoriasis. It is equally common in men and women, and affects about 2-3% of the global population, which is around 100 million people.

Psoriasis can start at any age, but most people develop psoriasis in their twenties. There is a peak during late teens or early twenties and a second peak when people reach their fifties.   

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown. It is a complex condition with multiple potential causes, which may be genetic, immunological, environmental and psychological. These factors alter how skin cells function, speeding up the rate at which skin cells are produced and shed.

Psoriasis is not contagious. Nobody gave it to you and you cannot pass it on by touch, swimming or even intimate contact.

UK/IE 2013b/00072, Date of prep: April 2015

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