Psoriasis is what is known as autoimmune condition. We are not going to go into too much depth about what these conditions are. All you really need to know is that it means that there is some sort of ‘flaw’ in your immune system (the part of your body that is meant to keep your healthy). Your immune system starts to see your skin cells as a threat and will start to attack them.
In a normal person, your skin cells are reproducing constantly. Your skin cells will be produced a few layers below your skin. Over time, normally about a month, they will gradually be pushed to the top of your skin. Here, they will then drop off. For those who are suffering from psoriasis, this process happens a lot faster. In fact, it happens in as little as three to seven days. The process happens so quickly that the skin cells are not maturing and they are not falling off the body. This causes a build-up of skin cells. We will talk more about this in a short while (see the symptoms section).
Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body. However, it is most likely to occur around the joints. It can also appear on the hands, neck, feet, scalp, and your face. In rare causes it may appear in your mouth, nails, or genitals.
Types of Psoriasis
There are five different types of psoriasis:
- Plaque psoriasis: about 80% of cases fall under this category. If you are suffering from plaque psoriasis, there will be red patches on your skin. These will then have a white plaque on it (hence the name)
- Guttate psoriasis: this is something which tends to occur most during childhood, but can also occur in adults. If you are suffering from guttate psoriasis, then there will be small, pink spots on your skin. This condition is likely to occur on your arms, legs, and your torso. It is rare that the skin will be ‘thick’ if you are suffering from this condition.
- Pustular psoriasis: the psoriasis will take the form of a pus-filled blister. This will be on top of inflamed, red skin. While this is a condition which can cover your entire body, it is more likely to be concentrated to a very small area. Those suffering from pustular psoriasis are more likely to see it occur on their hands or feet.
- Inverse psoriasis: occurs on the ‘hidden’ parts of the skin e.g. under your armpits, your groins, or on your genitals. The areas will be bright and shiny.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis: this is a very dangerous type of psoriasis. It can cover the whole body. It looks like sunburn, but much more painful.
The symptoms will be dependent on two things:
- The type of psoriasis you are suffering from.
Basically, the symptoms will differ from person to person. However, there are several symptoms which seem to crop up more than others. However, it is probably worth pointing out that you are unlikely to suffer from all of these. Even just suffering from or two of them would warrant a trip to the doctor to make sure that nothing is wrong:
- Inflamed patches of skin. The skin may be red and raised, although this is not always the case.
- There is a white ‘plaque’ on the inflamed areas of the skin.
- Your skin has started to dry out. This has resulted in cracking and ultimately bleeding.
- If there is an inflamed patch on your skin, it will be sore around it.
- The patches of skin may itch or burn.
- Your nails are thick.
- Your joints are painful and swollen.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition. If you suffer from it, it is likely to stick with you for the rest of your life. However, it is worth pointing out that the symptoms tend to be cyclical. This means that you may not always be suffering from them. You may deal with a psoriasis flare-up. The flare-up then disappears for a few months before it returns.
What causes psoriasis?
We do not actually know. However, we can make a few different guesses.
We do know that psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. This means that there is something which is causing the body to attack itself. We do not know what has caused this flaw in the immune system. If scientists had to guess, the condition is likely going to be genetic. Research has shown that the people who tend to suffer the most from psoriasis are those who have had the condition run in their family. So, if a close family member has suffered from the condition in the past, chances are that you will too. Well, at least the chances are going to be slightly higher.
As we mentioned previously; psoriasis is a cyclical condition. While it can pop up without warning, it is most likely going to pop up if you are the victim of a ‘trigger’. Different people have different triggers for the condition. It is up to you to work out what your triggers are and try to eliminate them. The most common triggers are:
- Stress: if you are highly stressed, then your immune system is far more likely to go into overdrive. This can increase your chances of suffering from the symptoms of psoriasis.
- Alcohol: if you drink heavily or binge drink one day, then you may suffer from psoriasis. The occasional drink is unlikely to have any impact on you.
- If you are injured e.g. you have broken the skin, then you are more likely to suffer from an outbreak of psoriasis. Even something as simple as getting sunburn or having a shot can increase the risk.
- There are some medications which can increase the risk of psoriasis. Please talk to your doctor about this.
- Infection: if you are suffering from an infection your body is, of course, going to be working overtime. This means your immune system is far more likely to start attacking those healthy skin cells.