What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious auto-immune disease which affects skin and joints.

Psoriasis is a chronic, lifelong disease. It is recognized as an inflammatory auto-immune disease with a strong genetic component. Affected individuals typically have other family members presenting with psoriasis. Until recently, psoriasis was not considered something to merit more aggressive therapy than topical medications, except in the most severe cases. Today, greater awareness has been promoted by several non-profit organizations including National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), and International Federation of Psoriasis Associations (IFPA), by technological and pharmacological associations, and by online forums and blogs.  Psoriasis is now recognized as severely impacting self-esteem, social and romantic prospects, and as promoting depression, seclusion, and generally reducing Quality-of-Life (QoL).

Psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming thick silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful. Psoriatic “patches” or “lesions” represent areas where the skin’s immune system “over-reacts” to a damage stimulus. Treatments focus on reducing symptoms (irritation, itching, discomfort), “calming” the skin and reducing scaling in the affected region through medicated creams and ointments (salicylic acid, coal tar, corticosteroids, forms of vitamin A and D, and others), interrupting the immune system and destroying abnormal skin cells locally viatargeted and non-targeted ultraviolet (UVA, UVB, NB-UVB) phototherapy, and by systemically interrupting the immune system through pills and injections. All of the above mentioned treatments are covered by most health insurance providers.

The most common form of psoriasis, which affects 80 to 90% of the psoriasis population, is called plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris), however there are several varieties. Psoriasis can affect joints (psoriatic arthritis), and typically one in four psoriasis sufferers also have psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriasis affects both sexes non-preferentially and can occur at any age, though commonly is evidenced between the ages of 15 and 25 years. 10 to 15% of adults who have psoriasis develop it before age 10. Psoriasis seems to affect some groups preferentially, presenting from 0% of the population to as much as 12% in some cases. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 2 to 3% of the population of the United States of America has psoriasis, or about 7.5 million people. As the population of the world increases, so does the number of psoriasis sufferers.

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