What is Psoriasis?


Psoriasis is a chronic auto-immune condition in which the skin cells reproduce at a faster rate than normal due to the faulty identification of pathogens in the body. It triggers the production of excess skin cells, and instead of shedding from the skin, it builds up, causing inflammation, and forming scaly reddish-purple blotches, known as plaques.

Skin cells reproduce every 4-7 days, instead of the regular cycle of 21-28 days, without allowing for shedding of the older cells. About 30% of psoriasis sufferers also develop arthritic psoriasis, triggering joint pain and swelling.


Causes of psoriasis 

  • Trauma to the stomach or digestive system, usually due to antibiotics, resulting in the body failing to digest certain proteins. 
  • Psoriasis can erupt or be exacerbated due to stress. 
  • Scientists have found a link between impaired liver function, inability to digest proteins, intestinal blood poisoning, excessive consumption of alcohol and animal fats, and psoriasis. 
  • Statistics indicate that women who smoke are more likely to suffer from psoriasis than those who don't. There is no association with smoking for men. 
  • Psoriasis is not contagious, and it cannot be contracted by touching a person with psoriasis or even the lesions themselves. 
  • The direct cause of the condition is unknown, and the reasons for its manifestation are based on statistical findings rather than a direct medical cause. 
  • The direct cause of the disease is unknown and the reasons for its formation are usually based on statistical findings without a causal-medical relationship. 


The incidence of psoriasis 

Psoriasis occurs in 3 percent of the world's population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it affects both men and women, regardless of ethnic origin. It is difficult to find accurate data, since registration of psoriasis is not compulsory. What information exists also proves to be difficult to work with, since each study so far conducted, has utilized different methodologies and dealt with various limitations respectively. However there is evidence that suggests that the incidence is increasing. Studies show a high prevalence of psoriasis in Northern Europe. It is less common in Eastern Asia. Psoriasis occurs at any age, including children, however it seems to peak between the ages of 17-22 and 57-60. 


World Psoriasis Day 

October 29 is World Psoriasis Day, a day conceived of by psoriasis patients for psoriasis patients. The aim of this day is to increase awareness of the condition, focus on improving access to new, innovative treatments, improve the understanding of the condition through learning and research, and build a supportive, cohesive community of sufferers. 


What are the symptoms of psoriasis? 

Dry, reddish-purple layers of skin, covered with silver-white scales. The lesions are most prevalent on the scalp, elbows, knees, back, chest, stomach, nails, and genitals. Patients may experience pain and burning in the area around the lesions. They vary in size, covering larger or smaller areas of the body. They can sometimes crack and bleed. Many patients suffer from itching. Psoriasis often occurs in cycles, at times flaring up for a number of weeks or even months, and then subsiding. The severity of the symptoms varies from person to person. 


What types of psoriasis are there? 

There are several types of psoriasis: 

Plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris): Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. It generally appears as scaly patches on the elbows, scalp, legs, and nails. It affects 85% - 90% of people with psoriasis. 

Inverse psoriasis: The scaly patches appear in the folds of the body, such as the armpits, groin, bellybutton, and beneath the breasts. The skin appears red and inflames and worsens with sweating and friction. 

Guttate:  Guttate is Latin for "drops" or having a drop-like appearance. This form of psoriasis occurs in children and young adults, and appears as small red scaly lesions. They usually occur after bacterial infections such as strep throat, and they aren't as thick as the typical lesions that occur in plaque psoriasis. 

Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is psoriasis accompanied by joint inflammation and pain. It is not as severe as other forms of arthritis, however if left untreated, it can lead to progressive joint damage, and in exceptional cases, deformity. 

Pustular psoriasis: This is an uncommon form of psoriasis, whereby pustular lesions appear on the hands or feet. The lesions are not contagious. 

Erythrodermic psoriasis:  In the case of erythrodermic psoriasis, the entire body is covered by a red rash, sometimes accompanied by itching or burning.