What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin disease which was confused with leprosy for centuries. Because of the failure to understand the difference between these diseases, people with psoriasis could experience humiliation and abandonment by their family and community. In the 19th century, Drs. Hebra and Kaposi, realised leprosy was different from psoriasis and that is was a distinct medical disease. Since then, scientists have been trying to find the root cause of the disease, safe treatments, and a cure.

Affecting 1 to 3 percent of the world's population, psoriasis is one of the most common skin disorders. Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting and recurring) inflammatory, non-contagious skin disease, characterised by itchy, thick, raised, red areas of skin covered with silvery-white scales. Psoriatic lesions (is less than 1 cm in diameter and is raised above the surface of the skin) are most commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, although any part of the body can be affected, including the fingernails and toenails

Psoriasis can vary in presentation and severity. The majority of patients (approximately 80 to 90 percent) present with relatively mild disease with only limited involvement of the skin which can be controlled with topical creams. Approximately 15 to 30 percent of psoriasis patients experience arthritis or inflammation of joints, which can range in severity from mild to disabling.

Psoriasis can be intensely itchy and can burn. Causing patients great discomfort, pain and emotional distress. Depending on the severity, psoriasis can affect relationships and the ability to work or enjoy leisure activities. For example, parents with tender lesions on their hands might find it difficult to care for their babies; patients with painful pustules on their hands or feet can find themselves unable to work with their hands or walk; and food handlers are constantly faced with the question: "Is that contagious?" Teens are often embarrassed by their blemished skin and are unwilling to wear shorts in gym class or during the summer. These limitations can affect both their psycho social development and ability to enjoy normal healthy activities. In short, psoriasis can have a profound negative physical and psychological impact on patients and their families.

Patients who have more limited disease, however, might not experience much discomfort, nor be emotionally distressed by its appearance. There are even patients with extensive areas of their bodies involved who are not physically or emotionally affected to any great degree.

Signs and Symptoms

1) Commonly appears as red, raised, dry scaly areas of the skin.

2) Nail changes such as deformity and crumbling of the nail plate can occur.

3) Arthritis can also be present with joint swelling, tenderness and stiffness.

4) Lesions can differ in size from several millimetres to several centimetres.

A lesion that is less than 1 cm in diameter (and is raised above the surface of the skin), is called a papule, and a raised lesion that is greater than 1 cm in diameter is called a plaque. Some people can have pustules present on the palms and soles or on other areas of the body. Psoriasis can be localised involving the elbows and knees, or widespread, covering the entire body.

Types of Psoriasis

There are five different types of psoriasis:

. plaque-type psoriasis

. guttate psoriasis

. inverse psoriasis

. erythrodermic psoriasis

. pustular psoriasis

Each type has its own unique characteristics; some types can occur alone or coincide with other forms. Therapy can differ for each.