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Psoriasis: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

The chronic skin disease psoriasis affects millions of people around the world, causing patches of itchy, scaly skin that bleed, cause itching, and cause itching. Psoriasis is not contagious, but it can have a significant impact on the quality of life of those who suffer from it. It can also affect nails, joints, and other organs.

Causes of Psoriasis

It is believed that psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells, but the exact cause is unknown. As a result, inflammation occurs and skin cells grow rapidly, forming plaques on the skin's surface.

Some factors that may increase the risk of developing psoriasis or trigger a flare-up include:

  • Genetic predisposition: Psoriasis tends to run in families, and some genes have been linked to the disease.

  • Infections: Bacterial or viral infections, such as strep throat, can trigger psoriasis, especially in children and young adults.

  • Medications: Certain drugs, such as lithium, beta blockers, antimalarials, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can worsen psoriasis or cause new lesions to appear.

  • Stress: Psychological stress can affect the immune system and trigger or aggravate psoriasis.

  • Injury: Physical trauma to the skin, such as cuts, burns, or insect bites, can cause a psoriasis lesion to develop at the site of injury. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon.

  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the effectiveness of psoriasis treatments and increase the risk of complications.

  • Smoking: Smoking can increase the severity and frequency of psoriasis flare-ups and reduce the response to treatment.

  • Weather: Cold, dry weather can worsen psoriasis, while warm, humid weather can improve it.

  • Hormones: Hormonal changes, such as puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, can affect psoriasis.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

Psoriasis can affect any part of the body, but it usually occurs on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, and genitals. The symptoms of psoriasis vary depending on the type and severity of the disease, but they may include:

  • Red, raised, scaly patches of skin (plaques) that may itch, burn, or bleed

  • Small, drop-shaped spots of scaling skin (guttate psoriasis) that often appear after a strep infection

  • Smooth, shiny, red patches of skin in the folds of the body, such as the armpits, groin, and buttocks (inverse psoriasis) that may be worsened by friction and sweating

  • Pitted, discolored, thickened, or crumbly nails (nail psoriasis) that may separate from the nail bed

  • Pus-filled blisters (pustular psoriasis) that may occur in widespread patches or on the palms and soles

  • Widespread redness, scaling, and peeling of the skin (erythrodermic psoriasis) that may cause severe itching, pain, and fever

Psoriasis can also cause inflammation and damage to the joints, leading to a condition called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and reduced mobility in the affected joints, which may include the fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, knees, and spine.

Diagnosis of Psoriasis

Skin diseases are usually diagnosed by a dermatologist, who specializes in skin diseases. For a diagnosis to be confirmed and to rule out other skin conditions, a skin biopsy may be performed. The diagnosis is based on the appearance and location of skin lesions, the patient's medical history, and the family history.

Treatment of Psoriasis

Despite the fact that psoriasis has no cure, a number of treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and prevent complications. Psoriasis treatments are dependent on a patient's type, severity, and location, as well as their preferences, age, and overall health. They include the following:

  • A topical treatment can be applied directly to the affected area of the skin, such as creams, lotions, gels, or sprays. Inflammation, scaling, and itching can be reduced by topical treatments such as corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, retinoids, coal tar, salicylic acid, or other ingredients. These are usually the first-line treatments for mild to moderate psoriasis.

  • Using ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis, phototherapy can slow the growth of skin cells and reduce inflammation and scaling. The light can be natural (sunlight) or artificial (UV lamps or lasers). When topical treatments fail to treat psoriasis or the condition involves large areas of the body, phototherapy is usually used.

  • The systemic treatment is a drug that is taken by mouth or injected into the body to suppress the immune system or inhibit the development of skin cells. Among the systemic treatments are methotrexate, cyclosporine, acitretin, biologics, and small molecule inhibitors. Psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis that cannot be controlled with other therapies usually requires systemic treatment.

  • A complementary or alternative therapy is one that is not part of conventional medicine, such as herbal remedies, dietary supplements, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, or massage. Stress can be relieved, mood can be improved, and well-being enhanced through these therapies for people with psoriasis. There is not enough scientific evidence to support the effectiveness or safety of these therapies for psoriasis, and they should not replace standard treatments.

Prevention of Psoriasis

Psoriasis cannot be prevented, but there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of flare-ups and complications. These include:

  • Avoiding or minimizing the exposure to the triggers of psoriasis, such as infections, medications, stress, injury, alcohol, and smoking

  • Following the treatment plan prescribed by the doctor and reporting any side effects or changes in the condition

  • Moisturizing the skin regularly and using gentle, fragrance-free cleansers

  • Protecting the skin from sun damage by using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and limiting the time spent outdoors

  • Eating a balanced, nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight

  • Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep

  • Seeking professional help for mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem

  • Joining a support group or online community of people with psoriasis to share experiences, tips, and coping strategies

People with psoriasis should consult their doctor for the best treatment options and follow-up care. Psoriasis is a chronic, incurable skin disease that can adversely affect a person's quality of life. However, with proper diagnosis, treatment, and self-care, psoriasis can be controlled and its impact reduced.

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