What is Psoriasis?

            Psoriasis is a skin condition which is characterized by the appearance of lesions on the skin. It occurs when the T-cells—a type of white blood cell that functions in immunity—mistake the skin cells for an antibody. In response, it triggers an inflammation to fight off the skin cells. It also results in the excessive production of skin cells which the body cannot shed off; hence, the lesions.

            Common psoriasis symptoms include the appearance of plaques, or patches of thick silvery white scales in the skin. This particular type of psoriasis is called “plaque psoriasis” or “psoriasis vulgaris”, and it affects almost 80% of those who are afflicted with the disease. They often develop at the joints like the elbows and the knees, but they can also appear on any other parts of the skin like the scalp, palms, soles, and lower back. Psoriasis can also manifest itself in the nails: if the nails start crumbling or changing colors, it might be an indication that you also have a psoriatic arthritis or an inflammation of the joints. Psoriasis can also trigger feelings of severe itching and burning.

            As to what causes psoriasis, it is not something that is transferred by mere physical contact. In other words, you won’t contract psoriasis by touching or using the items of someone with the disease. However, it has always been a widely known misconception that psoriasis is contagious and thus, people who are afflicted with this illness also suffer from alienation and low self-esteem. But then, psoriasis is more complex than that—it has something to do with the interaction of several factors.

As was mentioned previously, psoriasis arises due to abnormalities in the immune system. However, the person must also be exposed to the “right” combination of factors. In other words, a certain genetic condition must be paired with a specific trigger (i.e. physical and/or emotional stress, skin injuries) to produce psoriasis. What may cause psoriasis in one person might not necessarily cause psoriasis in another.

People worldwide can acquire psoriasis. Males and females are equally at risk of developing this skin disease. However, most cases of psoriasis are concentrated among Caucasians: around 7.5 million Americans are afflicted with psoriasis and an estimate of 150, 000 cases are being diagnosed every year. It can also occur at any point in a person’s life, although the risks are higher for those who are below forty and those who are aged between fifty to sixty years old.

Since psoriasis is a chronic disease—meaning its effects are long-term—there still aren’t any known psoriasis treatments that can be used to totally eliminate the disease from your system. However, it can be managed by a combination of medications and certain alterations in one’s lifestyle. People with psoriasis are usually prescribed with topical treatments like mineral oil, bath solutions, and moisturizers to soothe the inflamed portions of the skin and to reduce dryness. They might also be advised to switch to a vegetarian diet. Refraining from smoking and drinking alcohol is also highly recommended.

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