Psoriasis is a skin disorder than can occur at any age in both men and women. Most commonly, psoriasis first appears as thick, flaky patches of skin on the elbows, knees, or other parts of the body. The patches may be silver or red.
In some cases, psoriasis is so mild that people don’t know they have it. At the opposite extreme, severe psoriasis may cover large areas of the body. Psoriasis cannot be passed from one person to another, though it is more likely to occur in people whose family members have it.
The underlying psoriasis cause is unknown. However, it can be genetically inherited or passed from generation to generation. Most researchers agree that the immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. A normal skin cell matures and falls off the body’s surface in 28 to 30 days. But a psoriatic skin cell takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up and form the lesions. Possible triggers include: Stress, injury, illness, infection, steroids, and reaction to medications. Psoriasis is not an infection and it is not contagious.
Dry, red patches of skin are the most well-known symptoms of psoriasis. The skin replaces itself more quickly than normal, causing excess skin cells to pile up in thick layers. Roughly half of people with psoriasis also have irregular fingernail growth that results in pitting, crumbling, or discoloration of the nail. A smaller proportion of people also experience arthritis symptoms.
Because psoriasis is a chronic condition that can progress over time, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis and to understand the challenges and risks that accompany the disease.
There are a range of treatment options for psoriasis including topical (applied to the skin), systemic (taken internally) and phototherapy (ultraviolet light applied to the skin).
Effective treatment of all but mild to moderate forms of psoriasis usually includes a combination of treatment options and requires a prescription and medical guidance.
The treatment of psoriasis has improved greatly with the understanding of the role of the immune system in causing skin abnormalities. However, treatment of psoriasis has been limited by the side-effects of the medications used.
The most commonly used medications such as topical steroids, methotrexate, cyclosporine, and psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) can only be used for a limited time. After stopping these medications, symptoms generally return over a variable amount of time. Amevive is unique in that it was well-tolerated in clinical trials and induced a remission of symptoms for up to 1 year after the treatment was discontinued.