What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition which affects almost four million Americans each year. It’s thought to be a problem caused by the body’s own immune system, and is not considered curable. The symptoms themselves are treatable though, and sometimes psoriasis can go into remission for many months at a time.

With a healthy human body, new skin is generated about once each month. New skin cells develop deep below the surface of the skin, and slowly rise as they become mature. The skin cells which are already on the surface will die off over that thirty day time frame, and by the time the new skin cells reach the surface, the existing ones will be ready to shed.

With psoriasis however, the body generates skin cells at a much faster rate, and sends them to the surface in just three to five days instead of thirty. Since the surface skin cells are not yet fully died off, the new skin piles up on the surface with existing skin. This creates thick scaley skin patches on the body which have silvery white flakes, which are called psoriasis plaques.

These psoriasis plaques can be quite dry, itchy and red. Sometimes they’ll become so dry they’ll start cracking too. Psoriasis looks horrible and can be terrible to live with, but it’s not contagious. The body is over producing the skin cells because it feels something is wrong somewhere.

Many doctors, researchers and medical specialists feel the body’s own immune system is simply over reacting. There is some evidence that psoriasis is hereditary, and there is evidence which shows certain events in your life can trigger a psoriasis flare up too. Common events which can cause flare ups include periods of heavy stress or trauma, and severe illnesses such as strep throat.

Since there is no known cure for psoriasis, treatment revolves around minimizing or reducing the symptoms of this skin condition. There are topical creams, ointments and salves which can be applied to the psoriasis plaques which can help them become softer and thinner for instance. There are also some which can help the itching and redness of psoriasis as well.

Most of the topical creams and ointments which are available by prescription only work by attempting to slow the skin’s growth rate, or by slowing your body’s immune system.

Other psoriasis treatments can vary according to how severe the problem is. Sometimes psoriasis plaques can be reduced by exposing them to sunlight, because the UV rays from the sun make the skin die off faster. You have to be careful using straight sunlight though, because if you burn an unaffected area of your skin, you could develop new psoriasis plaques in that area.

Medical treatments also use special directed UV sunlight to help reduce the psoriasis plaques too. There are also both oral and injection drugs which are sometimes used for more severe cases of psoriasis. These drugs also often work by trying to suppress your body’s immune system so that new skin growth is slowed down to a more normal rate.