Psoriasis is a complex, inflammatory condition that affects approximately 7 million American adults. The most common form is plaque psoriasis, which is characterized by scaly, red, raised patches that appear on the arms, elbows, and knees. However, there are many other forms that can severely impact patients’ physical and emotional health.
The team at IDI offers comprehensive diagnosis and management solutions for people suffering from plaque psoriasis or other skin ailments. Here are a few facts you should know about this stubborn skin condition.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that can be managed effectively, but not cured. It is believed to be an immune system disorder that causes the skin to engage in extraordinarily fast cell turnover, resulting in inflammation, grey scaly skin, and deep red plaques.
Although psoriasis is seen in patients of all ages, two-thirds of cases are first diagnosed in adulthood. It can occur in anyone, but people with a family history of the condition are more likely to suffer outbreaks. The following circumstances can also trigger flare ups:
- Certain skin infections
- Very cold and dry weather
- Antimalarial drugs
- Some high blood pressure medications
- Consumption of alcoholic beverages
Plaque psoriasis – the formation of itchy and inflamed red skin patches – is the most widely seen form, but there are several variants. They include:
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: An extremely rare but serious condition that causes painful, burn-like inflammation and peeling that covers a significant portion of the body. Symptoms also include elevated heart rate, swelling of the feet, and dramatic body temperature fluctuations.
- Guttate psoriasis: The development of teardrop-shaped lesions on the body and extremities. It tends to accompany certain common illnesses, such as the flu or strep throat. It occurs in approximately 8% of people predisposed to psoriasis.
- Inverse psoriasis: A condition thought to be triggered by fungal infection. This version develops within skin folds, most commonly the undersides of the breasts, in the groin, and underneath the buttocks. The outbreaks are inflamed, red, tender, and itchy, and made more severe by moisture and friction.
- Nail psoriasis: This form attacks the nails of the fingers and toes, resulting in nails that become discolored, thick, pitted, and loose. It can be a predictor of psoriatic arthritis.
- Psoriatic arthritis: Swelling and stiffness in the joints that might accompany changes to the nails.
- Pustular psoriasis: A rare version that causes painful, pus-filled lesions, generally on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Severe cases (general pustular psoriasis or GPP) cause outbreaks of pustules all over the body along with elevated heart rate and internal temperature fluctuations. GPP is a very serious condition, and should be addressed immediately.
A dermatologist will review your medical history and consult with you about your symptoms and the events that trigger outbreaks. Because it is important to screen out other medical disorders, a skin biopsy might be performed.
Treatments involve strategies that slow the development of new skin cells and facilitate the shedding of scaly patches. There are numerous treatment options that could be appropriate depending upon the type and severity of the condition. While the condition will likely return, it can be managed effectively, and flare ups can be minimized. Patients typically find that a personalized combination of different treatments works best. They might involve:
- Topical medications: These could be prescription or over-the-counter corticosteroid creams which lower inflammation and inhibit the overproduction of skin cells. Calcineurin inhibitors are also effective in curtailing the hyperactive immune response that triggers outbreaks. Salicylic acid solutions might also be used to help exfoliation and to allow other medications to penetrate more effectively.
- Light therapy: Phototherapy offers targeted treatment of stubborn patches that do not respond to topical medications. Light therapy has been shown to inhibit the formation of plaques and slow skin cell growth. Depending upon the type of therapy and severity of the outbreak, multiple sessions could be needed.
- Injections or oral medications: Isolated plaques could respond well to steroid injections at the site. Your doctor may also recommend the injection of biologic drugs that manage your immune response and reduce the severity of existing flare ups. Oral immunosuppressant medications like cyclosporine are generally prescribed for severe cases.
IDI is dedicated to providing highly effective and personalized treatment programs for patients with mild to severe psoriasis outbreaks. If you’re struggling with painful inflammation and plaques, please don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with our team of experts today.