What is Psoriasis?
Anyone who watches television commercials is familiar
with the phrase "the heartbreak of psoriasis". But what is psoriasis? Psoriasis
is a common, chronic skin disease that varies significantly in symptoms and
severity. More than 4.5 million adult Americans are affected. While the precise
cause is unknown, most researchers agree that it is related to the immune system.
It also has a strong genetic component: 33 percent of people with psoriasis
have a family history of the disease. Psoriasis can develop at any age, although
it usually shows up in 15- to 35-year-olds. About 10 percent to 15 percent of
those with psoriasis get it before age 10, and occasionally it appears in infancy.
The average age at the time of diagnosis is 28 years. Psoriasis can be worsened
by stress, certain medicines, infections, or injury to the skin.
Despite looking like a rash, psoriasis it is not contagious. It is most commonly
found on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet or lower back. Scalp psoriasis
occurs in at least half of all people with psoriasis. It can range from very
mild with fine scaling to very severe with thick, crusted plaques. Psoriasis
generally appears as patches of raised red skin covered by a flaky white buildup.
In certain kinds of psoriasis, it also has a pimple-ish (pustular psoriasis)
or burned (erythrodermic) appearance. Affected areas of skin may have intense
itching and burning.
The good news is that many treatments are available to help manage its symptoms. The
bad news is that between 10 percent and 30 percent of people with psoriasis
may also develop a related form of arthritis.
The "heartbreak of psoriasis" is measured in terms of its physical and emotional
impact. Physically, if less then 2 percent of the body is involved, the case
is considered mild (The palm of one hand equals 1 percent.) Between 3 and 10
percent is considered moderate, and more than 10 percent is severe. Psoriasis
also is measured by its impact on quality of life. When psoriasis involves the
hands and feet, it may also be considered severe because it may limit a person's
ability to function. Or, if a person's psychological or emotional well-being
is considerably affected, the psoriasis may also be considered severe.
Created: 2/9/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.