As a chronic autoimmune disease, psoriasis is much more than dry, flaky, or inflamed skin. Beyond the often painful and embarrassing scaly rash most people associate with a psoriasis flare, this chronic condition can interfere with sleep, work, maintaining social relationships, and self-image. It may also increase the risk of developing co-occurring conditions such as diabetes, psoriatic arthritis, high blood pressure, or other autoimmune diseases.
If you or someone you know has psoriasis, specialized treatment from a skilled dermatologist can help minimize symptoms and reduce your risks of further health complications. This August for Psoriasis Awareness Month, Mekelburg Dermatology is telling you everything you need to know about living well with psoriasis.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic health condition that causes the skin to produce new skin cells at an accelerated rate– up to 10 times faster than normal. This overproduction of new cells often occurs below the skin’s surface, causing the raised, scaly rashes indicative of this condition.
Other symptoms of psoriasis may include:
- Dry skin in the affected area that may crack or bleed
- Pain or itchiness in the affected area
- Joint pain or swelling
- Thick nails with pitting
- Red, brown, or purple skin around the affected area
The Types of Psoriasis
Psoriasis can manifest in a variety of ways. The eight most common forms of psoriasis are:
Plaque psoriasis, which affects up to 90 percent of people with this condition. It most commonly manifests on the elbows, knees, lower back, or scalp and is characterized by red or purplish patches of skin with silvery-white or gray scales.
Guttate psoriasis, which appears in small, red bumps often on the torso or limbs. It is most common in children and young adults and may develop into plaque psoriasis. About eight percent of psoriasis patients have this form of the condition.
Inverse psoriasis, also known as flexural psoriasis, affects skin folds such as armpits, skin around the groin, or skin under the breasts. Because of the moisture often trapped in these areas, this form of psoriasis does not produce flaky scales.
Pustular psoriasis, which develops quickly with white pustules surrounded by red or darkened skin. Pustular psoriasis that covers most of the skin can be particularly dangerous because of the risks of systemic reactions.
Erythrodermic psoriasis, also known as exfoliative psoriasis, is a serious health condition that requires medical attention. This form of psoriasis affects large portions of the body, causing the skin to look red or purple and affecting your ability to regulate your body’s temperature.
Psoriatic arthritis, which causes the body to attack the joints and skin, affects 30 percent of people with psoriasis. It can be debilitating, most commonly affecting the hands and fingers.
Nail psoriasis manifests as grooves, pitting, and discoloration of the fingernails or toenails. In some cases it can be mistaken as an infection and may cause the nails to crumble or even fall off.
Scalp psoriasis primarily affects the scalp and causes severe dandruff. It is particularly noticeable around the hairline but can extend to the face, ears, and neck. Scalp psoriasis can be particularly uncomfortable and lead to scalp infections due to scratching the itchiness.
Common Flare Triggers to Avoid
Psoriasis flares can be triggered by a number of internal or external factors. Illness, infections, and injuries may all activate the body’s autoimmune system and cause a psoriasis rash to develop, even if the skin itself seems unaffected. Cuts and scrapes are also a common trigger as the skin’s defense system kicks into action and overcompensates to repair the damage.
Other triggers include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Dry, cold climates
- Certain medications like lithium or high blood pressure medication
- Certain foods like dairy, gluten, or high sugar foods
- Overexposure to the sun
Beyond triggering rashes, people with psoriasis should be particularly careful to avoid sun burns. Some evidence suggests psoriasis may increase your risks of skin cancer. That’s why staying proactive in seeing your dermatologist and getting regular skin exams is important.
Here at Mekelburg Dermatology, we are experienced in treating all forms of psoriasis and other chronic skin conditions. With more than 30 years of clinical expertise, Dr. Brian Mekelburg is dedicated to providing the best in dermatologic care for all of his patients.
Schedule your first appointment today.