By Terri Nagy, PA-C
Although psoriasis affects nearly 125 million people worldwide (roughly 2-3 percent of the total population) the facts surrounding this condition are often misunderstood. The signs and symptoms of psoriasis are commonly reduced to simply “dry skin.” While many of its symptoms share commonalities with areas of dry skin (flakiness, peeling, redness, itching) psoriasis is a much more serious condition—and understanding its causes and the ways it manifests in our bodies can make all the difference when it comes to finding relief.
What is Psoriasis?
This may be a diagnosis you have been given, or you may know someone with psoriasis. What you see is red, itchy, thick patches of skin commonly found on the elbows and knees. Sometimes, psoriasis can also be found on the scalp, torso, or even on fingernails (as well as more personal and private areas).
If you have psoriasis, you may think of this diagnosis as strictly an annoying, itchy, and embarrassing skin disorder—when it is, in fact, far more than that.
While it is not completely understood, we do know that those who have been diagnosed with psoriasis probably have a genetic predisposition for this disorder. We also know that babies are not born with psoriasis. This points to the understanding that the triggers of psoriasis are found throughout our environments. These triggers can include anything from stress, infections (specifically strep), medications, oral steroids, smoking, alcohol use, and even a minor skin injury such as a scrape or cut.
Once one of these triggers sets psoriasis in motion, we start to see various presentations on the skin as a result of inflammation circulating through the body.
How Does Psoriasis Present Itself?
Psoriasis can be large plaques of thick scale, small scaly circles, smooth shiny areas, pits found on the finger and toenails, and even pustules found on the palms and soles.
What we believe happens as a result of genetics and the environmental triggers is the activation of immune cells which leads to the release of inflammatory proteins called cytokines. These cytokines circulate through the body and eventually cause the skin cells to regenerate faster than normal, leaving behind a red, scaly rash.
It is important to note, even though we see psoriasis on the skin, it is not strictly a skin disorder. Due to circulating inflammation, people with psoriasis are at risk for developing psoriatic arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Psoriasis can also impact people emotionally and lead to issues such as depression and low self-esteem.
Seek Psoriasis Treatment Right Away
If you have psoriasis or know someone who does, it is important to see your dermatology provider and your primary care physician. There are plenty of new and effective therapies on the market that can help manage this condition. I or my colleagues are happy to discuss options with you. You don’t have to continue suffering from this common condition.
Terri Nagy, PA-C has been a board-certified PA since 1998 and has practiced dermatology since 2003. She is passionate about helping her patient achieve healthy skin, and she enjoys taking care of patients of all ages. Terri sees patients in the Northgate and Woodland Park offices.
Call 719-355-1585 to schedule an appointment with Terri.