Psoriasis (pronounced “sore-eye-ah-sis”) is a chronic skin condition in which a patient’s immune system sends signals to the skin that tell it to grow more quickly than normal. Instead of forming over the course of weeks after previous dead skin cells have been shed, new skin cells form in a matter of days and do not shed from the surface of the patient’s skin, piling up on the surface until patches of rough or plaque-like skin appear.
Psoriasis is often an inherited condition and is in no way contagious, though some patients face severe embarrassment or even harassment over the misconception that psoriasis is contagious.
There are five common types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, pustular, inverse, and erythrodermic. Depending on which one or combination of psoriasis that a patient has, they may experience different psoriasis symptoms.
Plaque psoriasis appears as reddish, raised patches on the skin known as plaque, which may be covered with a white coating called scale. These patches can appear anywhere on the skin, though they most commonly appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. They can also itch, but patients must avoid scratching the patches, as they will only thicken as a result of scratching. Patches can also come in a range of sizes, and can take on an appearance of separate patches or a joined patch that covers a large area. Nails can also be affected, forming pits, crumbling, or falling off.
Guttate psoriasis consists of small red spots that normally appear on the torso, arms, and legs, but can also occur on the face, ears, scalp, and all over the skin, particularly after an illness such as strep throat. The spots may clear up on their own without treatment in the course of several weeks or months, and can also appear where a patient previously had plaque psoriasis.
Pustular psoriasis results in red and swollen skin that is often dotted with pus-filled bumps, though these bumps usually appear solely on the palms of hands and soles of feet. Patients will experience pain and feel sore where these bumps occur. Once the pus-filled bumps dry, they leave behind brown dots or scale on the skin. In the rare event that these bumps cover the body, the patient will often experience bright red skin, fever, chills, sever itching, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, rapid pulse, and feelings of sickness and exhaustion.
Inverse psoriasis involves the development of smooth red patches of skin that look raw and develop where one area of skin touches another, such as the buttocks, under the breasts (on female patients), genitals, the groin area, and the armpits. Where these patches occur, patients will feel very sore.
Finally, erythrodermic psoriasis, also known as exfoliative psoriasis, causes the skin to appear as though it’s been badly burned, turning most or all of the skin on the body bright red. The patient’s body will have trouble maintaining a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, causing the patient to feel very cold or very hot. Intense pain and itching, as well as a rapid pulse, are also indicators of erythrodermic psoriasis. This is a life-threatening condition, and patients with erythrodermic psoriasis should be treated in a hospital immediately.
While psoriasis is a chronic immune disease and cannot be cured completely, there are a multitude of psoriasis treatment options for reducing symptoms and improving the quality of a patient’s life.
Both over-the-counter and prescription topical treatments can be applied directly to the skin, while systemic therapy entails taking medication orally or by injection, affecting the body as a whole from inside rather than working from the surface.
Another effective method for treatment is phototherapy, in which lasers are used to create the wave-lengths that most effectively treat psoriasis. It is important to note that this treatment can only be performed under the supervision of an experienced medical professional; patients should never attempt to self-treat their psoriasis with methods such as tanning beds, as more harm can be done to the skin by aggravating psoriasis via sunburns and increasing the patient’s risk for skin cancer.
Most importantly, whichever type of treatment a patient receives, they will need to follow the instructions of their physician to the letter in order to ensure successful results.
You don’t have to suffer through psoriasis alone! Contact our office today to schedule your consultation appointment and learn more about the procedures we perform that may help you treat your psoriasis and other ailments.