Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that speeds up the rate at which skin cells are produced in the body. Psoriasis affects both men and women fairly equally, and is mostly diagnosed in adults but can strike at any age. It is estimated that around 8 million Americans have psoriasis (including one of the world’s most famous women – Kim Kardashian).
Although there is still a lot of information to be learned about psoriasis, it is widely thought to be a combination of genetics and exposure to external triggers which can start a person to experience symptoms. Psoriasis is most definitely not a contagious skin disease There are several different forms of psoriasis which all present differently. You can read more information on the different types of psoriasis by following the links below.
Typically, skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the top layer where they eventually fall off. The typical life cycle of a skin cell is one month. In people with psoriasis, the inflammation in the person’s body causes this production process may occur in just a few days. Skin cells don’t have time to fall off, and this rapid overproduction leads to the build-up of skin cells.
Psoriasis can affect any part of a person’s body, but typically occurs on the joints, scalp, face, hands, and in skin folds. It can even effect the nails and genitals. Lesions are often painful and itchy.
About a third of people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis – another chronic disease related to the immune system that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints and where tendons and ligaments join to the bones. Symptoms may be mild or severe.
Psoriasis can effect a person’s mental health too. Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are lifelong diseases of the immune system that result in systemic inflammation. We typically think of this inflammation showing up on the skin with psoriasis or in the joints with psoriatic arthritis, but this inflammation can also impact other parts of the body, including the brain’s chemistry. This systemic inflammation means that people with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis are at a higher risk for developing other conditions such as anxiety and depression.
The following link will take you to part of the National Psoriasis Foundation’s website where they have lots of fact sheets about psoriasis, which can be used to help patients understand their condition, and the impact on other areas of life. https://www.psoriasis.org/publications/patient-education/fact-sheets
These fact sheets include information on:
- The different types of psoriasis
- The physical and emotional effects of living with psoriasis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Treatments available
- Complimentary/alternative medicine
- Research and clinical trials
There is a wealth of information for patients on the main website too. www.psoriasis.org
As well as resources they can use to read about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, there is also access to podcasts, webcasts, online support, and information about regional events. Knowing about where to access information is a great way to be able to help your patients.