August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month. So what is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin’s surface layer called the epidermis. The skin is a miraculous organ with the capability to repair itself. Basal cells at the very bottom of the epidermis are constantly dividing, making new skin cells that take about 40 days to rise up to the surface of the skin and flake off into the environment. This process is why scrapes and cuts on the skin will heal over time. For people with psoriasis, this process occurs too rapidly, in perhaps 10 days, causing scaly red plaques to build up on the surface of the skin. Because this process is happening too fast, the cells are not mature enough to simply flake off like healthy skin. The plaques of psoriasis are typically red, well-demarcated and topped with a characteristic silver scale. This condition can be very itchy for some people and not itchy at all for others. The plaques are often located on the scalp, ears, elbows, knees and fingernails – but can also be in areas like armpits and belly button. It is not entirely clear why this condition happens to some people and not others, but it is very common for a person with psoriasis to have a family history of the condition and sometimes this can occur after having strep throat.
Important things to remember:
- Psoriasis is not an infectious disease, which means this does not spread from person to person or even from site to site on the same person. You will not catch psoriasis from someone else and it is not someone’s fault that they have psoriasis – so be courteous.
- Psoriasis is not curable at this time, but we now have medications that are better than before for treating this condition. For many people it is possible to have completely clear or nearly completely clear skin with appropriate treatment. Our team of providers can talk to you or your family member about the various possibilities for care and make a treatment plan that works to fit your skin care needs.
- Psoriasis can be a systemic inflammatory condition – meaning this is not only limited to the skin. When inflammation from psoriasis affects the joints, we call this psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is permanently destructive to the joints over time so treating this is important to prevent future disability. Evidence also suggests that heavy burden of skin inflammation, as seen in moderate to severe psoriasis, is linked to cardiovascular inflammation, causing problems with the heart and blood vessels.
- Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to seek treatment options for psoriasis.
Eleni Moraites, MD
Christie Clinic Dermatology