What Are The Symptoms Of Psoriasis?

Skin irritations can be one of the most uncomfortable health conditions  — and certain ones are more common than you might think. Psoriasis is one of these itchy (and sometimes painful) skin irritations that’s caused by rapidly developing cells.

In the United States, there are over eight million people who have psoriasis. Since there isn’t a cure, patients must learn how to manage this lifelong condition. And one of the keys to managing psoriasis is understanding how its symptoms can appear.

What Causes Psoriasis?

When psoriasis develops, it’s generally a combination of three things — environmental, immune and genetic factors. Genetic history is a common cause, since about one third of people with psoriasis will also have a family member with its symptoms. Men and women are equally prone to psoriasis, and it usually develops in early childhood and early adulthood. 

Problems with psoriasis begin when white blood cells in the immune system start to malfunction or get infected. This makes skin cells rise to the surface and shed 10 times faster than normal, triggering psoriasis  symptoms.

There are some other factors that can lead to a psoriasis flare-up. Dry and cold winter weather can dry up the skin, leading to irritation. Skin injuries and punctures can cause psoriasis to begin or spread further around the body.

Certain medications have been known to make psoriasis appear. If you’re taking antidepressants or high blood pressure pills, ask your doctor if you’re at risk of developing psoriasis as a side effect. Stress, smoking and being overweight are other possible causes of psoriasis.

Signs And Symptoms Of Psoriasis

There are a number of warning signs that could mean you’ve developed a form of psoriasis. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, schedule a doctor’s appointment to see how it can be treated.

Common symptoms of psoriasis are: 

  • Redness and dry patches on skin, typically covered in whitish-silver scales and raised edges
  • Itchiness
  • Soreness around patches
  • Dry and cracked skin
  • Itchiness and burning sensations
  • Thick, pitted nails
  • Joint pain, swelling or stiffness

These symptoms can appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the elbows, knees, scalp, chest and lower back. 

The Different Types Of Psoriasis

As common as psoriasis is, it can look and feel different from person to person. There are different types of this condition that differ based on severity, pain level and appearance. Depending on your symptoms, your doctors will categorize you under one of the five types of psoriasis. 

Plaque Psoriasis
This is the most common form of psoriasis that affects 90 percent of people with this condition. It typically appears on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. These red patches are itchy, painful and can bleed due to cracks.

Guttate
This is the second most common type of psoriasis and can be triggered by a strep infection. It develops during childhood or young adulthood and appears as small, dot-like lesions. 

Inverse
You can find inverse psoriasis —which looks smooth and shiny — in the folds of your body like behind the knee, under the arm or in the groin. 

Pustular
Pustular psoriasis usually appears on the hands and feet, though it can appear anywhere. It’s when red skin surrounds white blisters that usually contain noninfectious pus.

Erythrodermic
This is one of the most severe forms of the condition that generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. It can spread throughout the entire body and includes symptoms like severe redness, itching, pain and flaking.

Common Treatments For Psoriasis And Its Symptoms

If your doctor says you have psoriasis, there are a few things you can do to treat it. 

The first solution  your doctor will likely prescribe is a topical cream. It’s applied directly to the skin and can  help soothe and reduce your symptoms. Common topical treatments include corticosteroids, retinoids, anthralin and vitamin D analogues. Moisturizer is another product you can use to prevent and treat psoriasis.

Another form of treatment is light therapy. A simple (and free) way of doing this is exposing your skin in the sun. Intense sunlight and too much exposure can worsen your psoriasis, so make sure you’re only doing short and controlled sessions. Artificial light therapies you might be interested in are UVB phototherapy, excimer laser treatment, and narrow band UVB phototherapy.

If your condition isn’t improving because of topical creams or sun exposure, your doctor might also prescribe an oral medication. These forms can cause severe side effects, so patients would probably only use it for short periods of time and alternate it with other treatments. Oral medications might include retinoids, methotrexate and cyclosporine. 

Ultimately, your symptoms will determine the best course of action to take when treating psoriasis. 

Living With Psoriasis

Since there isn’t a cure for psoriasis, being diagnosed with this condition can be upsetting. By treating it properly and being aware of the symptoms, it is possible to manage and lessen the severity of flare-ups.

Luckily, this skin problem is not contagious and can’t be spread by touching other people. Most people with this condition get plaque psoriasis which is the least severe form. With the help of topical creams and implementing moisturizing into your daily routine, psoriasis can be kept under control.

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