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What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory, condition that most commonly presents on the scalp, elbows and knees, though it can present on nearly any area of the body.  Locations of psoriasis tend to involve areas of trauma or friction.  The lesions of psoriasis present as well-demarcated pink or red plaques with silvery-white scales. Psoriasis can also affect the nails and joints.

Who gets psoriasis?

Psoriasis has a genetic predisposition, meaning that it may run in families.  Just because a family member has psoriasis does not mean that everyone in the family will develop it. In the United States, about 7.5 million people have psoriasis.
Psoriasis may begin at any age. Most people develop psoriasis between two lifetime peaks:  the ages between 15 and 30 or 50 and 60.  Most people who will get psoriasis by age 40. Caucasians develop psoriasis more often than other races.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown.  Research suggests an immune reaction where certain cells called T-cell send signals causing the skin cells to grow rapidly.  The new skin cells form in days rather than weeks and rather than exfoliating at the normal pace, the skin cells remain on the surface causing plaques of psoriasis to appear.
Triggers of psoriasis may include the following:

  • A stressful event
  • Strep throat
  • Certain medications, such as lithium or medicine to prevent malaria
  • Cold, dry weather
  • A cut, scratch or bad sunburn

Is psoriasis contagious?

No. psoriasis is not contagious.  It cannot be contracted through sharing towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or sexual contact.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

Psoriasis is typically diagnosed clinically – by visual inspection by a dermatologist.  Sometimes a biopsy of the skin is obtained to confirm the diagnosis; however a biopsy is not typically necessary.

How is psoriasis treated?

There currently is no cure for psoriasis however there are treatments that reduce and maintain it.  Treatment options include topical medications such as steroid or vitamin D based creams, light based therapies such as phototherapy (UVB or PUVA) as well systemic oral or injectable medications.  Your dermatologist will evaluate you and assist in developing the most appropriate treatment strategies.

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