What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common skin disorder in North America. The disorder once acquired is life long. The disorder can undergo periods of remission and relapses. Psoriasis is very variable in intensity; in some individuals it is a mild skin disorder and in others it can be disabling with severe arthritis. Between 10%-30% of people who have psoriasis also develop a disabling form of arthritis. The disorder has no cure but active psoriases can be treated with corticosteroids and UV light.
How common is psoriasis?
Psoriasis affects close to 5 million individuals in North America and each year more than 150,000 new cases are diagnosed. The majority of individuals have a mild type of psoriasis but close to 20% develop severe debilitating psoriasis. The disorder affects both genders equally and is more common in Caucasians.
What happens in psoriasis?
Normally our skin cells have a life cycle of about 30 days. In psoriasis, this life cycle is much shortened and new skin cells rapidly build up, which results in the appearance of classic thick silvery scales, which are itchy. The lesions also appear red and can be painful.
Regardless of type, psoriasis usually is unpleasant. The skin often cracks and bleeds and is tender to touch. When arthritis has developed, sleeping is difficult and pain is constant.
Psoriasis is a chronic disorder without a cure. Only the signs and symptoms are managed because the cause is not really understood.
When does psoriasis appear in life?
Most individuals show the first signs of the skin disorder between the ages of 15-35, and the majority of individuals develop psoriasis before the age of 40. A few individuals do develop psoriasis later on in life. Psoriasis can also occur in childhood and the earlier the disorder appears, the more widespread and severe will be its manifestations.
What are signs and symptoms?
Psoriasis is a variable condition and the symptoms may include:
- classic red patches of skin covered with silvery scales seen on the elbows and knees
- Patches of dry, cracked skin which easily bleeds
- Tender patches or burning around the lesions
- Deformed think and broken nails
- Deformed and swollen joints especially in the fingers
- Excessive dryness of the scalp with red patches
The Psoriatic symptoms come and go. In some cases the symptoms remain absent for a long time but in most cases the symptoms do return.
Who Gets Psoriasis Arthritis?
At least 20% of individuals with skin psoriasis develop a moderate to severe arthritis which can be deforming and lead to disability. The psoriatic arthritis usually occurs in the 3rd or 4th decade of life and usually presents after the skin lesions have developed. There are some individuals who do develop psoriatic arthritic and never develop the skin lesions
Treatment depends on the severity and type of psoriasis. Some individuals have very mild psoriases and do not require any treatment. For those with severe psoriasis, many require hospitalization and intense therapy. The majority of patients with moderate psoriases are managed as outpatients.
Quality of Life
Psoriasis is a challenging disorder and can affect the individual both physically and emotionally. Besides the pain, arthritis, unattractive skin lesions and deformed nails, the disease can disable individuals at a young age. Many individuals develop social isolation, depression and low self esteem. Many social network groups are now available to aid people cope with their skin disorder