Written by: Deen Kurrimbux

Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, flaky crusty patches of skin on the elbows, knees, scalp and back of a sufferer. It can appear all over the body in some cases.   The patches can be itchy or sore in some people.

psoriasis Psoriasis usually affects both genders equally under the age of 35 but can start at any age. For some it is a minor hindrance, but for others it can affect their entire way of life. Psoriasis is considered a chronic (i.e. long-lasting) condition with periods of flare-ups and remission.

There are several types of psoriasis of which plaque psoriasis is most common (90% of cases) with the aforementioned symptoms. Scalp psoriasis can occur either across the entire scalp or in smaller patches and sufferers report itchiness and hair loss in extreme cases. Inverse psoriasis occurs where the skin folds i.e. on or near the joints. The large smooth red patches of skin can get aggravated by sweat and is particularly uncomfortable in hot weather.

Psoriasis occurs when the skin cells replaced quicker than normal. The mechanism by which this happens is unknown, however. Skin cell genesis takes place several millimetres below the normal outer layer and slowly moves towards the outside where they die and flake off assisted by scratching and friction. This will usually take about 3 to 4 weeks. Psoriasis sufferers have this happen at an accelerated rate of between 3 to 7 days. Immature cells move faster towards the outer surface causing red, flaky, crusty patches covered with silvery scales. It is though this is linked with an autoimmune disease. Part of the immune system is made up of T-cells. T-cells help fight against infection and foreign bodies. In sufferers of psoriasis, the t-cells are defective in that they start to attack healthy skin cells, which cause the production of new skin cells, which has a positive feedback effect of producing more T-cells.

Psoriasis runs in families indicating it is genetic, however its exact mechanism is unclear, and it is likely a combination of genes. Psoriasis can also be as a result of environmental (outside of the body) triggers. Smoking, ingesting copious amounts of alcohol, stress and hormonal changes has been shown to trigger psoriasis.

While there is no cure for psoriasis, treatments are available to control its symptoms. The treatments are dependent on the type of psoriasis and can be either topical, phototherapy or systemic. Topical treatments involve the application of creams and lotions. Phototherapy is where the skin is exposed to certain types of ultraviolet light. Systemic treatments are oral and injected medications that work throughout the entire body. In many cases, a combination of these treatments will be involved.

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