Psoriasis is most commonly known as an itchy skin condition, a really itchy skin condition that can be hard to treat. Many sufferers will also declare that the pain of dry, sore skin is not to be overlooked when seeking to really know what is psoriasis. This is only scratching the surface, however, on understanding what is psoriasis.
So, Just What is Psoriasis?
A psoroatic condition is a bit more than just getting itchy. It can usually be identified as red plaques covered by silvery scales on particular parts of the skin. When treated, the scales disappear and the redness fades. What is psoriasis doing to the lives of people suffering with this disorder, however, may be more profound than the appearance of a few red skin spots.
There are actually five subtypes of psoriasis but the most common type, called plaque psoriasis, effects 90 percent of people suffering from the disorder. It appears as typical silver-scaled red spots that can appear all over the body but are most commonly found on the knees and elbows. The condition also flares up in areas such as the underarm, scalp, groin, buttocks, nails and face.
The rarer subtypes of psoriasis, referred to as guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic, are less common and can be a bit more difficult to recognize. While they can appear in the same locations as plaque psoriasis, the less-common subtypes can take on a slightly different appearance.
Guttate, for example, is a word that means “drops,” making it a perfect description of psoriasis that appears in tiny dot-like forms. Getting inside those delicate areas, inverse psoriasis, sometimes calledseborrheic psoriasis, appears as red shiny areas in the skin folds. Pustular psoriasis, on the other hand, is a rare form that involves the development of tiny pus-filled bumps on reddened, itchy skin. Unlike these other forms, erythrodermic psoriasis does not limit itself to patches but creates large areas of reddened skin that appear to be cracking and peeling away.
What Causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is not yet fully understood. It seems to be related to the skin’s rate of growth getting out of balance. It’s as if certain spots on the skin shed and renew too quickly, creating delicate red areas covered in scales of flaked-off skin cells. This theory of overly-rapid skin maturation also helps explain why psoriasis is so itchy. As anyone who’s ever had a big cut or a surgical proceedure can verify, the rapid growth and renewal of skin can almost beg to be scratched!
The tendency to develop psoriasis appears to run in families, suggesting it has a genetic cause. Not everyone with a family history of psoriasis, however, will develop the disease. Only when certain conditions are met do the itchy red psoriatic spots generally develop. The most common triggers for psoriais include stress, changes in weather, infections, injuries, and some types of medications. Some people are also sensitive to changes in diet, smoking, excess alcohol and allergic flare-ups.
The Other Effects of Psoriasis
To really understand what is psoriasis, it can help to remember that it is technically an inflammatory condition and as such, it can involve more than just the skin. As it appears that the immune system is involved in causing psoriatic skin to mature too quickly, it is not surprising that other immune-regulated effects can develop in people suffering from psoriasis.
One of these related problems can be painful joints, something known as psoriatic arthritis. This condition generally develops in relatively young people, which usually helps physicians realize that the joint pain is not just a case of over-use. In some cases, however, the joints can be more so much more dramatically effected than the skin that only a careful examination of all skin surfaces reveals the small psoriatic patches and plaques that point to this real cause of the joint pain. It’s important to uncover this connection because the treatment of psoriatic arthritis can be quite different than standard arthritis treatment.
It Looks so Much Like a Rash! Is Psoriasis Contagious?
One of the first questions asked by people suffering from this condition is often, “is psoriasis contagious?” and the good news is that it’s not. Despite looking like a type of rash that may spread to others, psoriasis is not contagious. What may actually spread is a sort of sympathy-scratching: feeling itchy all over while watching someone suffer from psoriasis! The effect is only temporary but certainly helps friends and loved ones remain supportive about finding proper treatment.
What’s important to remember is that it is possible to minimize just what is psoriasis going to do to your life. With proper treatment, the answer to what is psoriasis may become only a minor inconvenience.