Definition: What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the skin that manifests itself through the appearance of red patches covered with thick white crusts. The most affected places are the areas of friction, such as the knees, elbows, and scalp. That said, any part of the body can be affected. It is a chronic disease that evolves through relapses and remission phases.
Not contagious and most often benign, psoriasis affects between 1-3% of the world's population. Those who are most affected by the skin condition are between 20 and 30 years old.
Symptoms: How to Recognize Psoriasis
There are several types of psoriasis. The most common is plaque psoriasis, otherwise known as psoriasis vulgaris. It is characterized by round or oval red patches covered with crusts of skin that flake off. They are usually accompanied by severe itching.
The location of the plates differ from person to person. Friction areas such as elbows and knees are the most affected. In the majority of cases, it is psoriasis of the scalp, but it can also be nail psoriasis, palmoplantar psoriasis, or inverted psoriasis (zones of folds affected by lesions).
There are also rarer and more serious forms of psoriasis, such as guttate psoriasis (the plates are small and in the form of drops), erythrodermic psoriasis (generalized form affecting more than 90% of the skin), and pustular psoriasis (apperance of yellowish postules on the hands and tips of the toes). In 20% of cases, psoriasis is accompanied by joint pain. This is known as psoriatic arthritis or psoriatic arthritis.
It should be noted that psoriasis evolves per cycle in an unpredictable way that varies from person to person. The disease can disappear after a few months, and then resurface years late without the sufferer knowing why.
Causes of Psoriasis
The exact origin of the chronic inflammation that causes psoriasis is still unknown, but some factors have been pinpointed, such as a genetic predisposition. Some genes have been identified, but their exact role in the onset of the disease is still rather vague. However, there is a family history in almost 40% of all cases.
Environmental factors may promote the onset of psoriasis in individuals who are predisposed to emotional shock or intense stress. Alcohol and tobacco consumption may also be a contributing factor.
Treatment: Can Psoriasis be Cured?
Unfortunately, there is no known treatment that can completely cure psoriasis. That said, many therapeutic options are available to limit outbreaks of the disease.
In order to alleviate symptoms, the application of creams and ointments on the plates is recommended. They help to moisturize dry skin and reduce itching.
For more extensive forms of the disease, phototherapy can be used. There are two types. Puvatherapy is the exposure of the skin to ultraviolet rays (UVA). Sessions take place in cabins. UVB phototherapy, meanwhile, uses rays that are closer to those of the sun.
In more severe cases, oral or injection drug therapy may be prescribed. The most commonly used drugs are retinoids, methotrexate, ciclosporin, and biotherapies.