What Causes Psoriasis and How is it Treated?
August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, and we’re taking this opportunity to spread awareness about this skin condition that affects millions of people.
Psoriasis, like many other skin conditions, is often misinterpreted as being a contagious or infectious disease, which can be isolating for those affected. In fact, psoriasis is simply skin cell production, but on a grand scale; the skin cells are over-produced, replaced every 3 to 7 days instead of 3 to 4 weeks, resulting in thick, scaly plaques on the skin. It can be a multi-system condition, meaning that it also affects other parts of the body, including the joints where it can cause a type of arthritis.
Psoriasis can run in families, although researchers have yet to identify the exact genetic pattern that causes it. The process is not completely understood, making it hard for those with the condition to deal with it positively. It’s a chronic condition which, for many people, is minor, but for others it can severely impact physical, social and psychological welfare. It can start at any age, although is most prevalent in adults under 35 years old.
A GP will usually diagnose by looking at your skin during a flare-up, although they will sometimes request a biopsy to be certain, which will rule out other conditions that can present in a similar way, such as seborrhoeic dermatitis, pityriasis rosea and lichen planus. If psoriatic arthritis is suspected, blood tests may be taken to rule out other types of arthritis.
Sadly, there is no cure for psoriasis, but topical treatments can help to keep it under control. If these are ineffective, your doctor or specialist may refer you for phototherapy treatment, which uses a UV light to slow the growth of skin cells.
If you are struggling with the effects of psoriasis, there are support groups, such as The Psoriasis Association, that may help.