What is psoriasis?
Typically appearing as a rash or dry, scaly patches of skin, psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition that affects approximately one million Canadians and 80 million people worldwide. In addition to the genetic component—the disorder is often passed down through families—some environmental influences can shape the symptoms and severity of an outbreak. It’s important to note, psoriasis is not contagious, is not caused by an allergy, and poses no threat to others. If you have or think you have psoriasis, our skilled physician, Dr. Shehla Ebrahim, can help you heal outbreaks faster and reduce the frequency of their occurrence.
Psoriasis can develop at any age, though diagnosis commonly occurs between the age of 15 and 50. In youth, more girls than boys will be affected; however, men and women ultimately experience this condition at about the same rate. Most cases of psoriasis are relatively mild, and the patches of dry skin may or may not feel itchy. Still, more severe outbreaks can occur, and these may result in debilitating joint pain or require hospitalization for treatment. Fortunately, we offer a broad selection of treatments to help you avoid developing these problems.
If you would like additional information about psoriasis or wish to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ebrahim, please contact us today.
What Does Psoriasis Look Like?
Psoriasis typically appears as red and white patches of dry, scaly skin, often on the knees, elbows, hands, belly button, and scalp, though the symptoms can appear in nearly any location. The patches usually appear symmetrically on the body, affecting both knees, both elbows, for instance. In some cases, the signs may be missed if the patches are located in difficult to see regions or are kept well-moisturized. Even with regular use of lotions and emollients, psoriasis will often have a recognizable smooth and shiny appearance. Diagnosis may also be more difficult if the condition is atypical or particularly severe.
There are many different types of psoriasis, and you may experience more than one kind. Additionally, symptoms may be different if your condition is atypical or severe. Only an experienced doctor like Dr. Ebrahim can properly diagnose psoriasis. Some of the more prevalent forms of the disorder include:
- Chronic Plaque Psoriasis: Large flat patches of scaly skin called plaques frequently found on the elbows, knees, and lower back.
- Flexural Psoriasis: Smooth, clearly defined rash-like patches in the armpits, groin, belly button, and other body folds.
- Acute Guttate Psoriasis: Numerous small red patches spread out over a large area of the body.
- Sebopsoriasis: Combination of seborrhoeic dermatitis and psoriasis in which the face, ears, scalp, and chest are typically affected.
- Palmoplantar Psoriasis: Red, scaly patches found on the palms and bottoms of the feet.
- Nail Psoriasis: Ridges, yellow discoloration, and pitting on the nails of the hands and feet.
- Intraoral Psoriasis: Red patches located in the mouth with white or yellow borders, ulcers, and peeling gums. More common in severe cases.
- Koebnerised Psoriasis: Development of psoriasis in a healing wound or within a scar.
- Photosensitive Psoriasis: Development of psoriasis in sun-exposed areas or sensitivity to UV rays leading to red, scaly patches.
- Pustular Psoriasis: Appearance of pustules (pimples or cysts) on the skin that may cycle several times before clearing.
- Erythrodermic Psoriasis: Severe form of psoriasis that covers a large portion of the body or the entire surface of the skin.
- Psoriatic Arthritis: Joint pain developing as a result of complications from psoriasis.
Psoriasis often clears up on its own in mild cases, though treatment may be required to help alleviate the discomfort and symptoms associated with the condition. After a flare-up, dark or pale-pigmented marks may remain. These should fade with time and are not scars.
What Causes Psoriasis?
There are many known factors that contribute to the severity and expression of psoriasis; however, the cause of the disorder is as yet unknown. An overactive immune system, specifically the overproduction of defense cells, appears to be the underlying cause of the inflammation associated with the condition. These immune response cells, called cytokines, typically lead to the development of additional blood vessels that cause the redness, as well as the rapid skin cell turnover, which results in the thickening and scaly appearance of the skin in the affected area.
As is the case with many immune-driven disorders, psoriasis is affected by genetic influence. In fact, if you have psoriasis, there may be as high as a 50 percent chance that you will have a family member with the condition, and you’re more likely to develop the disorder at a younger age than those without a family history of psoriasis. Genetics isn’t the only potential culprit, however. Stress, infections, including tonsillitis, candida infections, and yeasts, injuries, hormones, certain medications, UV light, obesity, alcohol, and smoking all have been shown to affect the severity of a flare-up. It’s important for you to discuss your lifestyle habits and medical history with your physician when trying to determine the source of your complaints.
Is There a Cure?
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis. Some individuals experience a single flare-up that never returns while most people suffer through occasional bouts that fluctuate in severity. However, most patients can lead normal lives with the right combination of treatments that help to reduce discomfort as well as the frequency of the outbreaks. The correct blend of methods will depend on your unique anatomical needs and responses, as well as your lifestyle. Dr. Ebrahim will develop a customized treatment plan that can best address your goals during your initial consultation.
For more information about the types of and treatments for psoriasis, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ebrahim, please contact our office today.