Psoriasis is a condition of the skin that is little understood. The underlying cause appears to be an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to produce new skin cells at an accelerated rate that leads to the inflammation and itching that is characteristic with psoriasis. Normally skin cells take 28 to 30 days to grow to maturity, but in people who have an outbreak of psoriasis this process is shortened to 3 to 6 days. The scaling, itching and inflammation of the skin is caused by the over build-up of skin cells.
It is believed that the main cause of psoriasis is driven by a certain type of white blood cell known as a T-cell. T-cells are one of the body's defenses against disease and infection, but in the case of psoriasis they leak into action unintentionally and begin to trigger other immune systems which accelerate the creation of new skin cells. Because the skin cells grow and mature quicker then normal they also die off much faster, creating a build up of dead skin cells on the surface. This build up of dead skin cells forms the characteristic plaques, or flaky patches, that sufferers of psoriasis are familiar with. The redness and inflammation of the underlying skin is a product of the increased blood supply needed to feed the new skin cells that are growing at an accelerated rate below the plaques.
While anyone at any age can suffer from psoriasis researchers have found that people in their thirties and sixties are more likely to develop this skin condition than people in other age groups. Why this is the case no one knows. It is also apparent that heredity can be a marker for an increased chance of contracting psoriasis. Children who have one parent who sufferers from psoriasis have a ten percent chance of contracting the disease. That percentage goes up dramatically to fifty percent if both parents have this condition. Scientists, who have done studies on families afflicted with psoriasis, have been able to identify genes that are known links to the condition.
The exact causes of psoriasis remains something of a mystery but there are known triggers that are linked to outbreaks. Many people who suffer from this disease notice that there are times the condition is worse and times it looks to get better. Reactions to certain drugs, such as lithium and beta blockers, have been shown to trigger a psoriasis outbreak and in extreme situations make the condition worse.
Because psoriasis is caused by a faulty immune system anything that stimulates the body's defenses can bring about an outbreak. An injury such as a cut or bruise or an infection, particularly strep, can all cause an outbreak.
Another factor that can cause an outbreak of psoriasis is stress. People who suffer from psoriasis have noticed that as their stress levels go up so does the potential for a severe eruption of their skin inflammation. Psoriasis in and of itself also causes stress leading to a self perpetuating problem of continuous outbreaks that increase in severity as a person's stress level increases.
One way that psoriasis can not be done is through contact with someone who suffers from the disease. It is not a contagious skin condition, and although it is unsightly and can cause repulsive reactions from those who do not suffer its effects it is important to remember that those who suffer from it need the reassurance and support of friends and family along with proper treatment to help them live a normal life.