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October 10, 2018What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a fairly common inflammatory skin condition which affects around 2% of the UK population.  It’s characterised by flaky pink or red patches of skin with silvery-white scales.  These patches can appear anywhere on the body (often on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp) and are sometimes itchy and sore.

In some people psoriasis can be very severe, covering large parts of their body and causing considerable impact to their quality of life.  In others, psoriasis is a relatively minor irritation which comes and goes.

Psoriasis is not contagious so can’t be transmitted from one person to another.

What causes psoriasis?

Doctors aren’t sure what causes psoriasis, although the general consensus is genetics and the immune system are key factors.  What they do know is that people with psoriasis have skin cells which are made and replaced more quickly than normal.  In most people, skin cells are made and replaced every 3 or 4 weeks; in people with psoriasis, the cells are made and replaced every few days.  This causes a build-up of skin cells which creates the flaky areas of skin associated with psoriasis.

Some people with psoriasis may notice “triggers” which can cause their psoriasis to flare up.  These triggers may include stress, heavy alcohol use, injury (including cuts, vaccinations and sunburn) and certain medications.

What is psoriatic arthritis?

According to the British Skin Foundation, around one in three people with moderate psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis causes swelling and often painful stiffness in the joints, commonly the hands, feet, knees, elbows, neck and spine or lower back.  As with psoriasis itself, the severity of the arthritis varies from person to person.  Whilst some people may experience pain in one or two of their joints, others may have severe problems affecting multiple joints.

Is psoriasis linked to other conditions?

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis put you at a greater risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, metabolic disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Is there a cure?

The short answer to this is no, there is no cure for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.  However, both conditions can usually be treated to help alleviate the pain and keep the conditions under control.  There are three main treatments your Doctor is likely to consider: topical, including skin creams and ointments; phototherapy, where your skin is exposed to types of UV light; and systemic, involving injected medications.  In some cases, your Doctor may refer you to a dermatologist or skin specialist.

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