Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. Psoriasis typically affects the elbows, knees, and scalp, although it can appear on any location of the body. Psoriasis often itches, burns, or stings. Psoriasis tends to persist lifelong, fluctuating in extent and severity.
While the exact cause of psoriasis is not known, it is well known that both the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. Further, in the areas of psoriasis, the skin cells grow at an abnormally fast rate which causes the build-up of psoriasis lesions. And about one-third of patients with psoriasis have family members with psoriasis.
Psoriasis can start at any age (including childhood) with peaks of onset at 15–25 years and 50–60 years. Men and women develop psoriasis at equal rates. Psoriasis occurs in all racial groups, but is more common in Caucasians (3.5%) compared to African-Americans (2.0%). Psoriasis affects approximately 3% of the population and thus more than 8 million Americans have psoriasis.
Although psoriasis is condition of the skin, it is often associated with other serious internal health conditions including psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), and depression.
Psoriasis is not contagious. It is not something you can “catch” or that others can catch from you. Psoriasis lesions are not infectious.
Psoriasis therapies fall into the following categories:
- Topical therapies – creams, lotions, ointments, or shampoos that are applied directly onto your skin. Topical therapies come in different strengths from over-the-counter medications to prescription strength.
- Phototherapy (Light Therapy) – special ultraviolet (UV) light that can be given in a physician’s office or at home with a prescription home phototherapy unit.
- Oral Systemic Therapies – medicines that are taken by mouth. Some oral treatments target specific cells of the immune system, while others may act on your whole immune system to decrease the overactivity.
- Biologic Agents – treatments that are given as an injection (shot) or intravenous (IV) infusion (slow drip of medicine into your vein). Biologic medications work by targeting and lowering the overactive parts of the immune system to decrease inflammation.
Finding the right psoriasis treatment can be challenging. What works for one person, may not work for another person. Keep working with your doctor to find the best treatment plan that reduces or eliminates your symptoms.