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Skin Disorders – Psoriasis
Affecting approximately one out of every 50 adults, psoriasis is a physical condition that can cause significant psychological distress. One of the most interesting discoveries related to psoriasis is that its onset is rooted in the body's immune system.
The symptoms associated with a flare-up of psoriasis can include skin that is salmon-colored, scaly, flaky and irritated. With plaque psoriasis, the most common form, affected areas develop round-, oval- or irregularly-shaped patches of red that are covered with skin that's scaly and silver-colored. There is no consistency in the size or shape of the patchy areas and in fact, several small patches can merge together and appear as one big irregular shape of irritated skin. These areas are unsightly and sometimes they crack and cause bleeding.
Affected skin during a psoriasis outbreak can be extremely itchy, and frequently has a burning sensation. Like the shape, there is no consistency in how long a flare-up will last. It can last 20 days or it can last 120 days or longer. What's worse for those affected is that it's a chronic condition so recurring flare-ups can happen any time.
The most commonly affected parts of the body include the trunk, head, elbows and knees although any body part can develop psoriasis. Flare-ups also tend to be symmetrical, meaning that both sides of the body will experience flare-ups in the same areas at the same time.
Genetics plays some role in psoriasis so those individuals with parents or grandparents who have had psoriasis have an increased chance that they'll develop it as well. For reasons still unknown, T-cells, which are needed to produce the white blood cells that help our bodies fight infection, cause the skin to become inflamed. T-cells also somehow trigger the production of an overabundance of skin cells. With nowhere else to go, these excess skin cells pile up on top of one another and create the telltale appearance of raised patches on the skin's exterior. The red appearance is the increased blood supply that's needed to nourish these skin cells.
Injuries to the skin, sunlight and streptococcal infections are common triggers of Psoriasis. Stress can also trigger an outbreak as can changes in hormone levels. Individuals with early stages of HIV seem to have higher instances of psoriasis as well.
Psoriasis is not contagious so there's no risk of passing it on. Those who smoke cigarettes and who consume alcohol increase their risks of developing psoriasis.
Currently, there still is no cure for psoriasis. However there are many treatments that are effective at alleviating the symptoms. Start by keeping affected areas moist and by resisting the temptation to scratch the area.
Topical treatments are used first with the goal of slowing down the excess production of skin cells. Coal tar, salicylic acid, corticosteroids, synthetic vitamin D, tazorac and anthrallin are common topical treatment options as are specially-formulated bathing products and moisturizers. Systemic medications are prescribed to treat more severe cases. Phototherapy, where patients are exposed to medically-supervised ultraviolet radiation is also effective in treating psoriasis.