Odds are that you or someone that you know is living with psoriasis, a skin disease that affects an estimated 7.5 million Americans and 125 million people worldwide. Psoriasis symptoms range from itchy to downright painful. No one knows precisely what causes this autoimmune skin disorder to occur, but it’s thought that in people with certain genes, a trigger causes the immune system to malfunction, but in people with certain genes, a trigger causes the immune system to malfunction. Read on to find out more -- including what you can do to ease psoriasis symptoms.
What does psoriasis look like?
Psoriasis can affect any part of the body -- even the eyelids -- but it often appears on the scalp, knees, elbows, torso and back . Most people have a type called plaque psoriasis, where patches of skin are raised and red, covered by silvery, white buildup. In people with darker skin, these areas may become hyperpigmented and dark compared to the surrounding skin. Other forms of the skin disease appear as small dot-like lesions or white blisters surrounded by red skin. Yet another rare form involves intense redness and shedding of the skin.
Who gets it?
People who get the disease tend to have at least one family member with it. But just because Mom, Dad, Grandma or your Great Aunt Sally had the disease, does not automatically mean you’re going to get it. While psoriasis occurs in all racial groups, Caucasians tend to get it most often. In addition, people with psoriasis tend to be diagnosed as young adults around ages 15 to 35. Kids can also get it, but it’s rarely seen in infants. Adults in their 40s, 50s and even 60s can get it. Research has linked psoriasis with other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, obesity, high blood pressure and even some types of cancer. Unfortunately, because the cause of psoriasis is still unclear, it’s also not clear how these illnesses relate to the disease. Smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse have also been found to increase the risk of psoriasis.
What can be done to treat psoriasis?
Psoriasis is treated according to severity and the location. When first diagnosed with psoriasis, many people try creams and ointments -- either over-the-counter or by prescription. Some drugs are given by injection or intravenous infusion; others are taken orally. Often treatments are used in combination with others. These can include pills, injections, intravenous infusions and even light therapy treatment prescribed by your doctor based on your symptoms. People may also manage their disease through diet and exercise, along with effective stress management techniques.