What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, but can appear anywhere on your body.

Most people are only affected with small patches. In some cases, the patches can be itchy or sore.

Psoriasis affects around 2% of people in the UK. It can start at any age, but most often develops in adults under 35 years old, and affects men and women equally.

Why it happens?

It is not known exactly what causes psoriasis, but it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

One theory suggests that the immune system mistakes healthy skin cells for harmful bacteria or viruses.

Another theory suggests that certain skin cells are genetically resistant to destruction and build-up.

Psoriasis is not contagious, but it is a lifelong condition that can flare up from time to time.

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Types of Psoriasis

  1. Plaque Psoriasis – This is the most common type. Patches of skin are red, raised and have silvery-white flakes, called scales. They usually show up on your scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. They may crack and bleed and they feel sore and itchy. The more you scratch, the thicker they can get. A patch can be as wide as 4 inches; sometimes more. You can get it at any age, but it’s more common in adults.
  2. Scalp Psoriasis – This kind of psoriasis affects almost half of all psoriasis patients. Although it resembles dandruff, it is not the same. Dandruff flakes are oily and yellow. Psoriasis of the scalp is powdery and silvery or white. The skin on the scalp can be a little dry or flaky at times. This style can be used to cover the entire head. It can also show up on your brow, the back of your neck, and the area around your ears.
  3. Guttate Psoriasis – This type is more common among children and young adults. Small red dots with elevated edges develop quickly on your body, generally in the middle. The arms, legs, scalp, ears, and face are all typical targets. Strep throat, the flu, a cold, and other upper respiratory illnesses can all cause this type of psoriasis. It affects up to 10% of people with psoriasis.
  4. Inverse Psoriasis – They only appear when skin meets skin, in areas known as folds. Armpits, hips, genitals, buttocks, behind the breasts, and behind the knee are all common spots. Rubbing and sweating might aggravate the problem. Many people who have it also have psoriasis of another form.
  5. Pustular Psoriasis – This uncommon variety could be caused by an illness, stress, drugs, or exposure to specific chemicals. It results in red, puffy skin areas with pus-filled pimples (called pustules). They become yellow-brown and scaly when they dry out. The palms of your hands or the bottoms of your feet are usually affected. Blisters can rupture, leaving skin that is damaged and uncomfortable.

Stay positive

If you have psoriasis and are concerned about your physical or mental health, talk to your doctor or your healthcare team. They can provide guidance and, if necessary, additional treatment.

There are also psoriasis support groups, such as The Psoriasis Association, where you can talk to other people who have the disease.

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