Psoriasis is often misunderstood. What may seem like a simple, if at times unsightly, skin problem is actually a serious autoimmune disease. Psoriasis typically appears as a scaly red rash on the elbows, knees, and scalp, but it can show up anywhere on the body. It can look like a red, dot-like rash, fiery crimson-colored lesions in the folds of the skin, or scaly patches that itch, crack, and bleed. It is the most common autoimmune disease in the country, affecting approximately 7.5 million Americans.
Psoriasis is not contagious, Genetics and the immune system play a major role in the disease. In people with psoriasis, the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth of skin cells. Topical treatments, like steroid creams, or oral medications are typically used to treat the disease depending on how the treatments respond to the individual’s skin.
There are five distinct types of psoriasis:
- Plaque Psoriasis (Psoriasis Vulgaris) – About 80% of all psoriasis sufferers get this form of the disease. It appears as inflamed, red lesions covered by silvery-white scales.
- Guttate Psoriasis – This form of psoriasis appears as small, red, dot-like spots, usually on the trunk or limbs. It occurs most frequently among children and young adults and is often in response to some other health problem or environmental trigger, such as strep throat, tonsillitis, stress, or injury to the skin.
- Inverse Psoriasis – This type of psoriasis appears as bright-red lesions that are smooth and shiny. It is usually found in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in skin folds around the genitals and buttocks.
- Pustular Psoriasis – Pustular psoriasis looks like white blisters filled with pus surrounded by red skin. It can appear in a limited area of the skin or all over the body. The pus is made up of white blood cells and is not infectious. Triggers for pustular psoriasis include overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, irritating topical treatments, stress, infections, and sudden withdrawal from systemic (treating the whole body) medications.
- Erythrodermic Psoriasis – One of the most inflamed forms of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis looks like fiery, red skin covering large areas of the body that shed in white sheets instead of flakes. This form of psoriasis is usually very itchy and may cause some pain. Triggers for erythrodermic psoriasis include severe sunburn, infection, pneumonia, medications, or abrupt withdrawal from systemic psoriasis treatment.
Psoriasis increases risk for other serious health conditions. These include psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, hypertension, obesity and depression. The National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board urges people with psoriasis to work with their doctors to watch for the potential onset of any health issues related to psoriasis.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but many treatment options are available. Treatment is individualized for each person and depends on the severity of the disease, the type of psoriasis and how the person reacts to certain treatments.
*Results may vary per patient.
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