Psoriasis Characteristics and Frequency

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition that is currently affecting 2% of the worlds population. It causes itching and discomfort and eventually leads to the formation of scaly, thickened areas of skin called plaques. These plaques can appear anywhere on the body but tend to develop most frequently on the scalp, knees, and elbows. This condition tends to go through cycles – flaring up and subsiding over a period of weeks or months. Arthritis and nail changes may also occur as a following symptom.

About 2 out of every 100 people have this chronic rash. There is a strong hereditary component for this disease – scientists have identified over half a dozen genes that are involved. If you have a family member with psoriasis, you are at greater risk of developing the condition yourself. Typically, symptoms first appear either in adolescence/early adulthood or at about age 60. People with fair skin who live in a cold, dry climate tend to be at higher risk, as do smokers. Some patients report flare-ups related to stress.

Psoriasis Treatments and Causes

Psoriasis is not contagious and the risk of transmission to the children of affected individuals is not completely known. It is a chronic condition that is marked with numerous period of improvement and exacerbation. The response of psoriasis to treatment differs among individuals, somewhat unpredictable and often requires the care of an experienced dermatologist.

Although there is no cure for this condition, there are many types of psoriasis treatments available. They have widely varying rates of success for different patients. Your dermatologist should work with you to try different therapies and medications based on your symptoms and medical history. Some of these medications have serious side effects, so follow all usage instructions carefully.

  • Steroid creams (to reduce inflammation)
  • Topical tar (Anthralin or Dithranol)
  • Calcipotriene cream (a vitamin D3 derivative that moderates skin cell production)
  • Retinoids such as Tazorac, Acitretin, Methotrexate (these may help smooth skin texture)
  • PUVA / NB-UVB light therapy
  • Immunosuppressive drugs such as Cyclosporine and Cellcept
  • Biologics including T-cell inhibitors like Amevive and TNF-alpha blockers such as Humira and Remicade (these substances interrupt the hyperactive immune response that leads to psoriasis symptoms)

Additional Considerations

Recent research has shown that individuals with psoriatic dermatitis often also have metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions including high cholesterol, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, obesity, and high triglycerides). They may also develop a painful, degenerative joint condition called psoriatic arthritis. If you have psoriasis, your dermatologist and your primary care physician should both be involved in monitoring your health to ensure early intervention for these serious medical conditions.

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