Updated May 20th, 2024 at 21:47 IST

What Is Psoriasis? Understand Its Cause, Effects And Management

Psoriasis is chronic and relapsing, with no known cure, although various treatments can manage its symptoms.

Psoriasis | Image:Unsplash
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Psoriasis is often misunderstood as merely a skin condition, but it runs much deeper, involving complex immune system responses. Experts categorize psoriasis as an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. This makes it different from simple skin irritations that can be treated with over-the-counter remedies. Psoriasis is chronic and relapsing, with no known cure, although various treatments can manage its symptoms.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors:

Genetics: There is a significant hereditary component to psoriasis. Studies have identified numerous genetic markers associated with the disease, suggesting that having a family history of psoriasis increases one's risk.

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Environmental Triggers: Genetic predisposition alone doesn't cause psoriasis; external triggers are often necessary to activate the condition. These can include certain medications, infections, stress, skin injuries, and weather changes that dry out the skin.

How Psoriasis Affects the Immune System
In a healthy individual, the immune system defends against harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. In psoriasis, T cells, a type of white blood cell, mistakenly attack healthy skin cells. This misguided immune response triggers inflammation and causes skin cells to multiply rapidly. Normally, skin cell turnover takes about a month, but in psoriasis, this process accelerates to just a few days, leading to the buildup of thick, scaly patches on the skin.

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Psoriasis and related autoimmune diseases

Psoriasis is often linked with other autoimmune conditions, most notably psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Research indicates that up to 30% of people with psoriasis may already have PsA at the time of diagnosis, and up to 40% may develop it within five to ten years. PsA affects the joints and areas where tendons and ligaments attach to bones. Symptoms include dactylitis (swollen, sausage-like fingers or toes), nail changes, joint pain, and lower back pain.

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Getting the right diagnosis

If you suspect you have psoriasis, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional. Diagnosis typically involves a review of your medical history and an examination of your skin, scalp, and nails. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be conducted to confirm the diagnosis.

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Managing psoriasis

Living with psoriasis involves more than just treating the skin. It requires a multifaceted approach, including prescription creams, ultraviolet light therapy, and systemic medications. Additionally, lifestyle adjustments like regular oatmeal baths and avoiding alcohol can help manage symptoms. Balancing treatment for psoriasis with other health conditions can be challenging and may lead to emotional distress, fatigue, high medication costs, and limited physical activity. Therefore, a comprehensive management plan tailored to individual needs is essential.
 

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Published May 20th, 2024 at 21:47 IST