It’s a chronic skin condition characterized by itchy and sometimes painful scales and red patches typically on the elbows, knees, and back.
But what causes psoriasis, and what can you do about it?
Psoriasis is a condition that causes the body to make new skin cells in a shorter amount of time than usual.
So instead of new skin cells developing in a matter of weeks, with psoriasis it happens in just days.
Which causes a buildup of skin cells that appears in the form of dandruff-like scales to larger patches.
It’s actually the most common autoimmune disease in the world, affecting 125 million people, or 2-3% of the global population.
There are several different types of psoriasis that vary in the placement and texture of the patches, but the most common type is “plaque psoriasis,” which causes red patches covered with a silvery buildup of dead skin cells to form.
These patches are known as plaques.
And plaques can show up anywhere on the body, but the most common areas are the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp.
Other signs and symptoms of psoriasis include dry cracked skin that may bleed, soreness or itching or burning, thickened ridged nails, and swollen or stiff joints.
Most people with psoriasis will have it for their whole lives, with flare-ups occurring in cycles.
But what causes the condition in the first place?
It’s thought to be related to a problem with T-cells, which is a certain type of white blood cell.
These cells are involved in the body’s immune response, defending against viruses and bacteria.
But with psoriasis, these cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells and attempt to heal a wound or infection that doesn’t exist, which involves the production of healthy skin cells.
This is what causes the patches—or plaques—to appear.
Researchers still aren’t sure what exactly causes the t-cells and white blood cells to malfunction in this way, but there are some factors that can trigger psoriasis flare-ups.
Things like other bodily infections or skin injuries like a cut or scrape, stress, smoking, vitamin d deficiency, and certain medications can encourage an outburst of psoriasis.
Other risk factors include a family history of psoriasis and obesity.
So how do treat a psoriasis outbreak?
Well, since there’s no cure for the condition, treatments focus on reducing inflammation and clearing the affected skin areas and usually take the form of topical treatments, light therapy, and oral or injected medications.
For mild psoriasis, creams and ointments can be applied to affected areas.
But when an outbreak is more severe, medications and light therapy may need to be combined.
In light therapy, a person with psoriasis will expose themselves to natural or artificial ultraviolet light, which slows down the skin cell reproduction and can reduce scaling and inflammation.
But be careful to not overexpose yourself to light, as that could make symptoms worse.
Oral or injected medications are more likely to be prescribed for severe psoriasis since they may cause serious side effects.
There are also alternative treatments including aloe vera cream to reduce redness, the consumption of fish oil to reduce inflammation and topical application of oregon grape, a species of flowering plant.
Others even turn to yoga, meditation, or physical therapies to manage breakouts.
Of course, consult a medical professional about which treatments are best for your individual situation.
And remember, this is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the world, so don’t sweat it if you’ve got it.
To subscribe to the Everything Explained channel, click here