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What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin problem that is the result of skin cells growing too quickly and moving rapidly to the surface of the skin in a matter of days. Under normal circumstances, skin cells grow and migrate to the surface of the skin in approximately four weeks, flaking off as they rise to the surface. As this occurs, new cells replace the outer layers of skin. With psoriasis, skin cells grow in days, moving to the surface to form thick plaques. These plaques can range in size and they most frequently appear on the knees, elbows, hands, feet, scale, and low back. Although psoriasis occurs most frequently in adults, children and teens can also be affected. People with psoriasis can have thick patches of skin that may appear white, silvery, or red. When psoriasis is mild, there may only be small areas affected by a rash. However, when it is moderate to severe, the skin may become itchy and tender, with patches running together to cover large areas of the skin. These patches may be inflamed and raised, often with a loose covering of silvery scale.

What causes psoriasis?

The causes of psoriasis are not completely understood. It is a genetic predisposition and often sometimes occurs within families. It is most likely to be the result of an overactive immune system, which results in inflammation of the skin. If you have psoriasis, you may have noticed that flares are exacerbated by dry skin, stress, infection, and exposure to extremes of temperature. Psoriasis is not a contagious disease. The symptoms of psoriasis sometimes wax and wane without treatment, but most people should see a dermatologist for diagnosis and management of this chronic condition.

Psoriasis affects joints and nails

Psoriasis may have a systemic component and may not simply be just a skin disease. Some patients may develop psoriatic arthritis, which results in painful, swollen joints. Psoriatic arthritis can develop before or after manifestations of the skin disease. Psoriasis can cause nail changes, in both fingernails and toenails. If you have psoriasis, your nails may change color, develop pits, or separate from the nail bed.

Treatment for psoriasis

The initial step in treatment of psoriasis to a definitive diagnosis by a dermatologist. In most cases, a dermatologist can make the diagnosis by examining patches of skin and nails. Treatment for mild psoriasis usually begins with appropriate skin care and topical steroids, including use of moisturizers to prevent dryness. Ultraviolet light, special shampoos, and other types of topical creams may be used. It’s important to avoid triggers, like stress, infection, overexposure to ultraviolet rays, and alcohol. Smoking can also make psoriasis worse. Some medications, including NSAIDs, lithium, and beta-blockers, may exacerbate your symptoms. Let your doctor know what medications you are taking when you visit your dermatologist.

Medications used to treat psoriasis include topical creams, ultraviolet light therapy / laser, intralesional steroid injections, oral medications, and systemic biologic injections. Occlusion therapy, which refers to wrapping the skin after applying a moisturizer or medicated cream or gel, can keep your skin moist and increase the efficacy of medicated creams and ointments.

Call today for a consultation

If you are concerned about psoriasis, call today for an appointment at one of our convenient locations in Encino, Glendale, or Beverly Hills. Psoriasis can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but treatments are available. We would be happy to help you determine the best treatment for your psoriasis.

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