What is psoriasis and what does it look like?
Psoriasis is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition that is characterized by raised red patches and flaky, silvery scales.
Different types of psoriasis
There are many different types of psoriasis, the most common being plaque psoriasis.
Roughly 90% of patients with psoriasis suffer from plaque psoriasis. What is plaque psoriasis? Plaque psoriasis emerges as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells; usually itchy and tender, patches may crack and bleed. Patches are often found on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Psoriasis is considered severe when 10% or more of the body surface is affected.
Scalp psoriasis, which affects more than 50% of people with psoriasis, may be very mild (i.e. a bit of scaling) or severe (i.e. the entire scalp is covered). In some cases, psoriasis of the scalp reaches the forehead, back of the neck and around the ears.
- 1 million Canadians are affected by psoriasis.
- ~90% of psoriasis patients have plaque psoriasis.
- Arthritis affects up to 30% of patients with psoriasis.
- Psoriasis may increase the risk of developing other diseases: speak to your healthcare professional.
Causes of psoriasis and triggers
The exact cause of psoriasis is not quite understood, but experts tend to agree that this disease begins with a malfunction of the immune system and resulting inflammation. Something triggers the white blood cells found in the immune system, inflammation ensues, and skin cells rise to the surface, shedding at an unusually fast rate (30 days for normal skin cells vs. 3–4 days for psoriasis skin cells).
What triggers psoriasis in one person is likely different from another person. Psoriasis triggers may include stress, injuries to the skin (e.g. vaccinations, sunburns and scratches), certain medications (e.g. lithium, an antidepressant; quinidine for heart conditions), beta blockers (antihypertensive) and infections (e.g. earache, bronchitis, tonsillitis or a respiratory infection). The weather may affect psoriasis positively or negatively; the winter months often dry and irritate the skin, while the summer sun often helps psoriasis plaques fade.
How to treat psoriasis
Many treatments exist to help manage psoriasis. Along with your doctor, you will find the treatment that helps best manage your symptoms and control your psoriasis. What is best for you depends on the type and severity of your psoriasis, what you are willing to use, and how you respond to a given treatment.
Dermakalm Psoriasis Cream and Scalp Gel, non-prescription products available at your pharmacy, help provide temporary relief of symptoms of psoriasis and scalp psoriasis.
Developed with dermatologists, Dermakalm Psoriasis Cream and Scalp Gel are free of corticosteroids, fragrances, coal tar, sulphur, salicylic acid and artificial colouring.
Myths and facts
Although psoriasis is quite common, it remains an obscure skin condition for many.
You can catch psoriasis.
No. Psoriasis is NOT contagious; it is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin, not a skin infection.
Psoriasis is the result of poor hygiene.
No. Psoriasis has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin.
Psoriasis cannot be treated.
Wrong. Although psoriasis cannot be cured, many treatments are available to help manage symptoms.
Psoriasis myths are harmless.
Wrong. Many psoriasis patients are judged by the condition of their skin. Some psoriasis patients may not take their condition seriously and will not seek treatment, which can lead to other health conditions. The more that is known about psoriasis, the better it is for all.
Living with psoriasis
Although psoriasis is a skin disease, the impact of psoriasis reaches far beyond physical appearance.
Lesions can be itchy and tender, making everyday tasks such as dressing and sleeping difficult. Between the physical pain, anxiety, and restrictions, psoriasis can become emotionally draining, particularly for those with moderate to severe psoriasis.
Psoriasis causes stress that may make the condition worse and affect treatment. Explaining that psoriasis is not contagious, not related to poor hygiene, and that it is a lifelong condition for which you are being treated may help others understand where you are coming from and ease some of your anxiety.
Maintaining a daily routine of taking care of your skin, bathing, sunlight and stress reduction may aid in preventing flare-ups. Work with your healthcare professional to find what is best for you and to help improve your quality of life.