Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic skin disease characterized by thick red scaling patches on the skin. The condition is caused by a disorder in skin growth. Normally the skin is gradually renewed: old skin cells are released on the outside and grow on the underside of the epidermis. With psoriasis, the production of skin cells is accelerated and the excess cell layers are not rejected. This causes the skin to form a thick layer of immature skin cells that are difficult to peel off. The cause of this disturbed skin formation is of a genetic nature.
Who gets psoriasis ?
Psoriasis occurs at all ages. It usually starts after puberty, but also babies and elderly people can develop it. There is clearly a familial component: the children of a psoriasis patient have a 10% chance of developing psoriasis themselves. Some medicines can cause or worsen psoriasis; examples are beta-blockers and lithium. Smoking is also a significant risk factor for psoriasis: smokers have a 3 times greater chance of developing psoriasis than non-smokers. Quitting smoking can improve symptoms in many patients.
What types of psoriasis are there ?
Typical for psoriasis are red scaling spots on the stretch side of arms and legs, and in particular the knees and elbows. This form of psoriasis is the most common and is therefore called psoriasis vulgaris, in other words; common psoriasis.
This is also a common form of psoriasis and is characterized by many small scaly pink-red spots scattered throughout the body.
In contrast to the common psoriasis where the skin lesions are mainly found on the stretch side of the arms and legs, in psoriasis inversa, there are spots in the folds. Examples are the groin, armpits and women under the breasts. Psoriasis inversa is usually not flaking: they are pink-red glossy spots and usually not thickened.
Psoriasis on the hairy head sometimes resembles 'dandruff' (seborrhoic eczema). Psoriasis unguum Often the nails are also involved in psoriasis. Characteristic are small pits in the nail plate. With more severe forms, there is also a callus layer under the nail that lifts the nail plate.
Symptoms of painful joints can also occur in all described forms of psoriasis. This is called psoriasis arthropathica or psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis pustulosis palmoplantaris (M. Andrews Barber) In this particular form of psoriasis, there are small, pus-filled blisters on the palms and / or soles of the feet. The condition is almost exclusively seen in smokers.
What is the course of psoriasis ?
The symptoms that occur with psoriasis are very unpredictable. The spots can be limited to a small part of the skin for a long time. However, an enormous eruption can suddenly occur, for example after a (throat) infection or use of certain medicines. Stress can also be an important reason for psoriasis to spread. In many cases, an aggravation can not be properly explained. Fortunately, psoriasis can stabilize again, even after a prolonged expansion of the symptoms.
Influence of psoriasis on daily life
Psoriasis is a very visible condition. Even if the number of places with psoriasis on the skin is limited, there can be a big impact on people's social life and their self-esteem. A large group of people suffer relatively little from their skin disease and what others may think of it, but there is still a much larger group that does indeed suffer from feelings of shame. People with psoriasis will sometimes avoid activities where they have to literally expose part of their skin, such as swimming. During holidays they will sometimes try to wear as much covering clothing as possible, even in hot weather, to prevent others from showing their skin condition. Involving intimate relationships can also be more difficult: here, too, uncertainty and shame about one's own body can create a major barrier.
Exchange of experiences with other people with psoriasis can help to deal with the complaints. It can also help to explain to friends, family and colleagues what the disease entails ("No, it is not contagious ...") in order to reduce one's own sense of shyness about the disorder and increase self-assurance.
The treatment of psoriasis can be very intensive. A lot of hydrating, sometimes supplemented with the (on time) taking or injecting of medicines or with light therapy can be experienced as very stressful, because people have to deal with their complaints so much.
In short, the impact of psoriasis is often large and may not be underestimated by the environment of people with psoriasis, which unfortunately happens too often. But with the support from people around you and a well-balanced treatment plan from a dermatologist, it is usually possible to control psoriasis and make it bearable.