These plaques can appear in various areas of the skin including the scalp, elbows, knees, navel, palms, ears and groin. The plaques vary in size and severity of inflammation, from small localised patches to large areas of the body: from small spots to bleeding pustules. It can affect anyone between the ages of 15 to 35.
Psoriasis has been connected to an increased risk of stroke, and treatment of high blood lipid levels can decrease the risks. It could be disabling, especially when accompanied with arthritis.
Signs and symptoms of psoriasis
In Psoriasis, flaky or inflamed skin patches spans from a few sites with dandruff-like scaling to large outbreaks that cover most areas of the skin. Mild cases of psoriasis may be annoying, uncomfortable or embarrassing but severe cases can be disabling, excruciatingly painful and disfiguring.
These are the five known types of psoriasis:
Plaque — Thick, red patches of skin are covered by flaky, silver-white scales. This is the most common type of psoriasis.
Erythrodermic — The skin redness is very intense and covers a large area.
Guttate — Small, pink-red spots appear on the skin.
Inverse — Skin redness and irritation occurs in the armpits, groin, and in between overlapping skin.
Pustular — White blisters are surrounded by red, irritated skin.
The signs and symptoms of Psoriasis can differ from one person to another, but will generally include one or more of the following:
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Severe dandruff on the scalp
- Thickened, pitted or ridged nails, yellow-brown nails, dents in the nail, and nail lifts off from the skin underneath
- Psoriatic arthritis causing swollen and stiff joints
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Swollen and stiff joints
- Genital sores in males
- Most types of Psoriasis go through cycles: Symptoms will disappear even without treatment (go into remission), and then return (flare up) either suddenly or gradually.
Causes of psoriasis
Psoriasis occurs when a process called cell turnover is disrupted. Skin cells that grow deep rise to the surface within a month. In psoriasis, the process happens in just days because the cells rise too fast. The cells pile up on the surface of the skin, forming Psoriasic plaques.
Two main hypotheses about the development of Psoriasis exist. The first considers the problem as a defect of the epidermis and its keratinocytes: It stipulates Psoriasis as principally a disorder of excessive growth and reproduction of skin cells.
The second hypothesis sees Psoriasis as being an immune-mediated disorder, in which the excessive reproduction of skin cells is a secondary factors produced by the immune system. The T cells (which normally help protect the body against infection) are activated and migrate to the dermis and trigger the release of cytokines, which cause inflammation and the rapid production of skin cells. It is not known what initiates the activation of the T cells.
The following may trigger a flare up of Psoriasis or make the condition harder to manage: infections such as strep throat and thrush, stress, cold weather, dry skin, dry air, smoking, and heavy alcohol consumption. Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, severe sunburn, or too little sunlight can also trigger a psoriatic lesion to develop. Some medications, including lithium, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and medicines used to treat high blood pressure or certain mental illnesses and anti-malarial drugs, may activate an outbreak or worsen psoriasis condition.
Psoriasis may be more severe in people who suffer from a weak immune system due to:
Autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis)
More information, useful links and support services are provided by the UK Psoriasis Association.