Balance is the most vital of needs in any given situation. The human body is a great example where this fact applies. In all activities within the human body, all systems and organs function at a certain rate and intensity, and any imbalance in this can have negative reactions, be it under or over-activity.
Psoriasis is one of the primary examples of such negative results. This is a skin condition that occurs because of the over-activity of our immune system (1). It is characteristically known by the flaky presence of dead skin that persistently builds upon the surface of our skin. It is a chronic, common skin condition experienced by people all around the world.
How does Psoriasis start?
An overactive immune system is a major culprit for kick-starting the symptoms of psoriasis. It fastens the life cycle of skin cells and increases the skin cell production rate (2).
With such excessive production of skin cells, there is lesser and lesser space on the surface to accommodate it all. Hence begins the quick build-up of dead skin cells on our skin, made visible as flaky plaques of dead skin. Psoriasis starts as flaky, dry skin accompanied by itching, inflammation, and redness (3). In more extreme cases, these regions are even known to crack and bleed.
Psoriasis often shows up in regions in the body prone to dryness like the elbows, knees, and scalp. Additionally, for people with the naturally dry type of skin, this may very well spread to other less common regions like their torso and chest.
One of the most common forms of psoriasis include:
– Plaque psoriasis: this is when scales and plaques of red skin and silvery flakes of dead skin form on the surface. These can even form painful lesions, prone to bleeding and itching (4).
Once these start forming, they are notorious for spreading and covering wider areas. When it forms around the nails, it is normal to see a range of discoloration around the nails and nail bed.
– Erythrodermic psoriasis: it is one that is a trigger reaction caused by a systemic psoriasis treatment or through sunburn cases left untreated. It is a far more severe version of psoriasis.
It is characteristically identified by a harsh redness of the skin and great amounts of shedding of dead scaly skin (5).
– Guttate psoriasis: this is a type of psoriasis that is distinguishable through the pink bumps that appear across the skin region suffering from psoriasis. So there is often a combination of scaly skin and these bumps all over the region. Although not contagious, it is capable of spreading if not treated appropriately.
Streptococcal infection (such as strep throat or a sore throat) is sometimes seen as a trigger for guttate psoriasis, especially in people who have the genetic history of psoriasis in their family (6).
– Pustular Psoriasis: this is a more rare form of psoriasis, but it is more severe in appearance. Pus-filled pustules made up of white blood cells show up in the region where the psoriasis is rampant. They appear to pepper the region with plaque skin and are sensitive to touch.
They are usually surrounded by redness and can appear anytime while the skin condition is prevalent. Men or boys are known to be afflicted with this more than women (7).
– Inverse psoriasis: as the name suggests, this is one of the rarer forms of psoriasis which, instead of forming protruding bumps or flaky plaque skin, creates extra smooth and shiny flexural forms.
It is particularly drawn to showing up in the fold regions of the body like armpits, elbows, even buttocks. Naturally oily skinned people tend to suffer from this more because it starts with redness and itching in a region.
When the development of dry skin cells is restricted by any retained moisture on the skin, it forms its shiny and smooth exterior (8). This makes it more tender and painful than most forms of psoriasis. But the treatment for this is similar to normal psoriasis, which is mentioned below.
Is Psoriasis an Autoimmune disease?
Apart from being a notoriously common skin condition, psoriasis is in fact, an autoimmune disease. In general, these are a group of diseases that are capable of misguiding the immune system in some way (9). This may make it react in unpredictable manners, which may cause the body more harm than good.
Our immune systems have a type of cell known as T cells. When triggered incorrectly, they can be made to behave as though they are fighting some infection or asking to heal a wound (10).
This immediately produces specific chemicals that then cause inflammation. For this particular skin condition, it also causes excessive skin growth through this autoimmune action.
A specific way to see the change in rate would be to know that while normal skin cells are replaced within 28 days, in people with psoriasis it only takes around 6 days.
Being both a chronic as well as an autoimmune disease, it usually has the tendency to flare and wane in different periods of a lifetime, and are unpredictable. The lack of immune regulation is a major cause of psoriasis’ random appearances, apart from genetic predisposition.
Is Psoriasis a genetic condition?
Being a genetic condition is one of the characteristics of psoriasis because it is the leading trigger for the condition in a person. If parents had the condition, it is most likely that the child will experience the plight of the skin condition at some point in his or her life. It highly increases the chances, and with its autoimmune status, it is capable of affecting other functioning parts of the body.
One such example is psoriasis arthritis. This is when joints exhibit symptoms of inflammation (11). At times, people may have no outward signs of psoriasis apart from such joint pain, making it inexplicable for any common person.
It requires consultation with physicians to properly diagnose this as a sign of psoriasis. It is usually the joints in the hands or knees and ankle that suffer from this. The onset of this sign of psoriasis, however, is in later stages of life, mostly for people post 30 years of age.
Another example would be the aforementioned discoloration of nails and nail beds. When the skin condition targets the areas around the hands and fingers, the nails and nail beds tend to change color because of this condition().
The treatment for this situation is particularly strong and difficult to administer. This is because apart from topical steroid-based creams that can be used, sometimes medication may need to be regularly applied right at the nail cuticle. This type of psoriasis symptom needs to be tended to by a physician.
Is Psoriasis itchy?
With all the symptoms and signs of psoriasis, it is obvious that psoriasis would be an itchy skin condition. It is, in fact, one of the most intense traits of psoriasis. It starts to flare up right at the onset of the condition and may increase if left unattended. There are several possible triggers that may make the itching worse.
Any injuries to the skin become hot spots targeted by the skin disease and the incessant itching because it increases the risks of being infected. Moreover, emotional stress can also increase our body’s reaction to the condition, making it worse. Stress is generally harmful to our system because it creates an imbalance in our otherwise well functioning systems.
Any habits like smoking or alcohol consumption only affect the body in a negative way, making it more susceptible to the symptoms of psoriasis and disrupting the actions of the immune system. This, in turn, makes the condition worsen.
There are complex medications that we may be taking for other reasons, which could clash with the immune system to trigger its autoimmune characteristic. It is always advisable to consult with your doctor and make them aware of any and all skin conditions that you may have before they prescribe medical products.
Does Psoriasis spread?
As previously mentioned, although psoriasis has the capability of spreading across the skin in severe cases, it is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person via contact (12).
It is primarily a genetic condition that is triggered by external conditions and our lifestyle choices at times. Being an autoimmune disease it is not capable of influencing people who come in contact with you.
However, substances that you may come in contact with have chances of aggravating the condition, such as harsh chemicals that may further dry the skin out and cause inflammation.
Can Psoriasis be cured?
Unfortunately, psoriasis is one of the skin conditions, which cannot be completely cured till present. However, there are many solutions that have been developed and tested, to control the symptoms and keep the disease from worsening.
Someone with a good medical regimen and consistent check-ups with a physician can control their existing psoriasis and lead a normal lifestyle. The most common treatments for psoriasis include topical creams with steroid content, light therapy and even oral forms of medication.
Topical creams usually consist of corticosteroids and retinoid, which have anti-inflammatory properties, and may substitute for natural hormones, which are doing their job due to the autoimmune condition (13).
However, this needs to be supervised by an expert because too much or reckless application of these medications can lead to worsening of the condition and causing complications in the body.
As for people with more severe forms of the skin conditions, doctors recommend, at least for a short period of time, a systemic medication where they may be given antibiotic injections and other medication. These are adequately measured and timed to help the body fight against the condition.
As for light therapy, in order to understand how it works against psoriasis, we can take a look at what sunlight does to our skin. Since rays from the sun, particularly ultraviolet rays, are known to damage and kill cells in our skin, light therapy uses artificial UV light to target white blood cells and kill them.
These are the overactive white blood cells that cause psoriasis by attacking the healthy normal skin. This happens primarily because of psoriasis’ state as an autoimmune condition. Our body’s immediate reaction to the threat of an infection is the production of white blood cells. So these become the reason for psoriasis when white blood cells are overproduced with no use (14). This is also called phototherapy.
Psoriasis as a skin disease is seen as quite common nowadays, and this helps solve the many misconceptions that were previously held by people. With proper treatment and correct diagnosis, any form of psoriasis can be controlled.
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