What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that is characterized by prominent scaly bumps on the skin. Usually, these bumps appear red or silvery white in color, depending on the type of psoriasis. It is a skin disease most common among adult Caucasians, although people of any race and age can acquire it; and more than its irritating physical effects, its impact is seemingly more severe on the psychological aspect.

When psoriasis strikes, feeling of intense itching and burning are produced, making the person lose his or her concentration on more important matters at hand (i.e. work, school). Sometimes, it can even cause sleep deprivation. But more than that, psoriasis can affect the self-esteem the most: people with psoriasis are often uncomfortable with how they present themselves to other people and can thus lead to feelings of shame and self-consciousness. In some cases, psoriasis can even lead to depression.

But what causes psoriasis? Psoriasis is said to be triggered by both biological and environmental factors. For the biological component, it is believed that psoriasis has something to do with an abnormality in the immune system’s function. This skin disease is triggered when the immune system—which primarily functions to fight off foreign bodies and infection—mistakes the skin cells for antibodies. In turn, it triggers the release of T cells to ward off the skin cells. As a defense mechanism, this T cells causes the skin to flare up, which are manifested as lesions in the dermis. Also, this mechanism speeds up the production of skin cells. Since the body cannot shed off these excess cells just in time, they accumulate to form scale-like patches.

As for the environmental component, it varies on a case-to-case basis. This means that there is no one factor that is responsible for the activation of the psoriatic gene. Vices such as drinking alcohol and smoking are often linked to the development of psoriasis. Exposure of the skin to harmful elements like the sun’s rays can also trigger the disease. Even skin injuries can induce the inflammation. And since psoriasis is a long-term condition, these factors can also determine the length and the severity of the flare-ups.

Although it has already been agreed upon by medical researchers that psoriasis is an inherited disease and the genes are largely responsible for its development, it is not yet clear to them what genes in particular are included in the process and how do these genes work together. However, the researchers have already determined which parts of the immune system are involved in the disease: the aforementioned T cells and the major histocompatibility complex (also known as MHC).

Most psoriasis treatments available to those who are living with this condition only serve to alleviate its effects, not to completely heal it.  Psoriasis treatments are done via a combination of medical solutions and changing one’s way of living. Medical treatments are usually in the form of topical solutions and pills. On the other hand, lifestyle changes involve doing away with elements that cause psoriasis, such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

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