The 10 Things You Should Know About Psoriasis
Though you may be familiar with psoriasis as a cause for dry, itchy, and flakey skin, how much do you really know about it? Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects as many as 7.5 million Americans and there are several different types. Keep reading to learn the top 10 things you should know about this chronic skin condition.
1. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease.
An autoimmune disease develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells or tissues. In the case of psoriasis, the immune system attacks the skin cells.
2. It speeds up the life cycle of skin cells.
Though the underlying cause of psoriasis is autoimmune activity, what actually ends up happening is that the life cycle of cells is sped up which results in a buildup of skin cells on the surface of the skin – these are called plaques, or scales. The whole process can happen over just a few short days.
3. Genetics are a big risk factor.
If you have an immediate family member who has psoriasis, your risk for developing the disease is much higher. The number of people who have a genetic predisposition to psoriasis is low, however – only about 2 to 3% of people who have the gene develop psoriasis.
4. There are symptoms other than itchy skin.
In addition to red, itchy skin, some of the other symptoms of psoriasis include silvery white scales, cracked or bleeding skin, soreness, itching or burning, pitted nails, and painful swollen joints.
5. Psoriasis is not contagious.
Psoriasis is different from a bacterial or fungal infection, so you cannot catch it from someone or pass it to someone else. Touching an active psoriasis lesion will not cause you to develop psoriasis.
6. There are 5 different types of psoriasis.
The most common form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis – it affects about 80% of people with psoriasis and causes red, inflamed patches of skin to develop, often with silver-white scales. Guttate psoriasis is most common children and causes small pink spots while pustular psoriasis causes white, pus-filled blisters to form in localized areas. The other two kinds are inverse psoriasis and erythrodermic psoriasis.
7. Psoriasis can go into remission and flare up.
You will always technically have psoriasis, but the skin problems themselves will come and go. When your symptoms return, it is referred to as a “flare-up” and it can be triggered by anything from eating certain foods or taking certain medications to sunburn or stress.
8. There is no cure for psoriasis.
Unfortunately, psoriasis cannot be cured – this is true for many autoimmune conditions. Though you can never fully be rid of your psoriasis you can reduce flare-ups by managing your triggers and you can relieve symptoms with topical applications or systemic medications.
9. A healthy diet can help reduce psoriasis flare-ups.
Many of the triggers for psoriasis are food-related, so it only makes sense that changing your diet could reduce the risk for flare-ups. Dietary changes to manage psoriasis include reducing your intake of saturated fats in favor of omega-3s and drinking less alcohol. Eating fewer inflammatory foods like red meat, processed foods, and refined sugars will help as well.
10. Psoriasis can increase your risk for arthritis.
Approximately 15% of the people who have psoriasis will develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis. This form of arthritis causes joint pain, swelling, and inflammation – it is frequently misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis or gout.
As common as psoriasis is, many people still don’t know the basics about it. If reading this article has opened up any questions for you, speak to your doctor about your concerns.