Psoriasis is a noncontagious, lifelong skin condition that affects about 2–3% of the population of the United States. People with psoriasis have thickened, red, and often scaly patches on their skin. Psoriasis is very likely to run in families, but it can also be triggered by certain situations, such as emotional stress, injury to the skin, infection, as well as taking certain medications. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it seems to be caused by errors in how the immune system functions.
The typical lesions of psoriasis are red, raised patches that often have a silver or grey scale on top of them. These patches are frequently seen on the elbows, knees, back, buttocks, and scalp, and they are usually seen on both sides of the body. Areas of rubbing or friction are particularly likely to develop psoriasis lesions. Most people also experience itching, but some may not.
PSORIASIS CAN BE GRADED AS:
- Mild – Few, scattered, small areas of involvement (about two-thirds of people have mild disease)The National Psoriasis Foundation is a useful resource that has additional information on treating your psoriasis.
- Moderate – More widespread disease affecting larger areas, sometimes affecting the joints
- Severe – Most of the skin surface is affected, sometimes affecting the joints
- The nails may also be affected in psoriasis. There may be tiny pits or indentations, yellow-brown spots, and lifting up of the nail from the finger underneath (onycholysis).
Because psoriasis is a lifelong condition for which there is currently no cure, the goal of therapy is to decrease the number of lesions and improve symptoms, such as itching and irritation.
- Bathe daily to help remove scale and moisten the skin. Avoid harsh soaps; soap substitutes are milder for your skin.
- Apply moisturizers to all scaly psoriasis patches after any water exposure or bathing. Heavier oil-based moisturizers help to retain water in the skin better than water-based moisturizers.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream (0.5 or 1%), available over the counter, to help reduce itch and redness.
- Use products with salicylic acid (shampoos, cleansers, and ointments) to help soften and remove heavy scale.
- Small doses of natural sunlight may be helpful, such as 10–15 minutes 2 or 3 times a week. Avoid too much sun, however, and protect your healthy skin from sun exposure.
There is also an increased risk of non-melanoma skin cancer and lymphoma in people with psoriasis. For this reason, monthly skin self-exams and regular visits to your doctor are important.
The National Psoriasis Foundation is a useful resource that has additional information on treating your psoriasis.
Living Well with Psoriasis
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