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Psoriasis is an incurable but treatable skin disorder, and it’s more common than you probably think. More than 8 million Americans and 125 million people worldwide battle psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin condition where skin cells grow and regenerate too quickly for the body.
“While the immune system and a genetic predisposition are the primary causes of psoriasis, we don’t yet fully understand why it happens,” said Thomas McAndrew, M.D., primary care physician at Inspira Medical Group Primary Care Clarksboro. “What we do understand is the psychological and physical impact it can have on a person. That’s why we are dedicated to providing as much education and care as we can to those managing psoriasis.”
The most commonly affected areas are the scalp, knees, elbows and torso—but it is possible that psoriasis can manifest on other parts of the body. These outbreaks can last for days, weeks or even months, followed by periods where the areas are clear or in remission.
Psoriasis exists on a large spectrum. From thick, dry raised patches to soreness around aggravated areas, the condition can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the type of psoriasis and its location. While there is little information on the actual cause of psoriasis, potential triggers for this condition are infections, colds, scrapes, diet choice and more.
“Not every person with psoriasis will experience the same symptoms,” said Dr. McAndrew. “More importantly, how a person’s body reacts to psoriasis really depends on which type they have.”
The main types of psoriasis and the accompanying symptoms include:
- Plaque psoriasis: The most common form of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis is defined by dry, raised red skin patches. These areas may be itchy, and commonly appear on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp.
- Guttate psoriasis: Typically seen in young children and teens, guttate psoriasis causes small lesions on the stomach, arm or legs.
- Inverse psoriasis: This form of psoriasis is found predominantly near the skin folds of the body. It causes smooth patches of red skin.
- Pustular psoriasis: This is an extremely rare form of psoriasis that can be identified by pus-filled lesions on the hands or bottoms of feet.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: The least common form, erythrodermic psoriasis has the ability to cover the entire body in a red, painful rash.
- Nail psoriasis: It is possible for psoriasis to actually grow under fingernails and cause abnormal nail growth, potentially leading the nail to loosen or fall off completely.
- Psoriatic arthritis: A form of arthritis that affects people with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis causes swelling and pain in joints—mimicking the distinctive symptoms of arthritis.
“The first step for any patient seeking treatment is to speak with a primary care provider,” said Dr. McAndrew. “Through examining and taking a biopsy of the affected area, doctors have a better chance to understand potential care options based on its severity and sensitivity to treatments.”
Topical therapy like creams and gels, light therapy and medical injections are the three most common treatment methods. While topical therapy slows down the reproduction of skin cells at the surface level, light therapy reduces itchiness and growth of skin cells by using ultraviolet (UV) light. Injections like biologics are developed from human protein cells and help to reduce inflammation and mitigate the extra activity in the immune system.
“Obviously, this condition can cause serious physical pain and discomfort, but it can also have severe psychological effects,” said Dr. McAndrew. “Psoriasis can make people feel guilty or shameful for how they look and is linked to a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety.”
Living with psoriasis can be challenging. But speaking with your primary care provider can be the first step in learning the best treatments and pain management tools to regain control of your condition. To schedule an appointment at one of Inspira's primary care offices, call 1-800-771-2778 or request an appointment online.