According to the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 3% of the US population lives with psoriasis.
Many of you may be asking, what is psoriasis? Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes large areas of scaling on the elbows, knees and lower back. Psoriasis is associated with a systemic inflammatory process. With psoriasis, your body produces more skin cells than needed causing those extra cells to build up. These thick plaques of excess cells are itchy. Sometimes psoriasis is associated with an inflammatory arthritis.
There are several things that can trigger psoriasis, says Dr. Kathryn Potter, a dermatologist at Augusta University Health. “Stress, certain medications can worsen or trigger psoriasis, and koebnerization can trigger psoriasis. Koebnerization is trauma to the skin, so when you scratch the psoriasis or have a skin injury it can spread.”
Types of psoriasis
Psoriasis can occur at any age, but most often occurs during two peak times. The first peak is between ages 20-30 and the second peak is between ages 50-60.
Depending on the type of psoriasis, and whether joints are affected, there are five primary treatment options:
- Topical steroids. For some people topical steroids are enough to treat psoriasis. However, after using for a period of time a dermatologist may see that the percentage of body/surface area that is healing is low and may need to explore a more aggressive treatment plan.
- Narrowband UVB. This is a narrow wave length of light that helps lower inflammation and helps reduce the pain and itchiness. Typically patients on this treatment plan see better results when they can go in 2-3 times per week.
- Systemic treatments. There are also two common drugs used for systemic treatments, methotrexate and acitretin.
- Oral medication. Some patients take oral medication, such as otezla (apremilast). This drug is used to treat adult patients with psoriatic arthritis.
- Injections. All block different points of the inflammatory cascade that result in psoriasis.
“Having psoriasis is an independent risk factor for having diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Often times, weight loss is recommended to patients who are overweight. Weight gain can actually make psoriasis worse.”
Some people may notice their psoriasis gets better with time, says Dr. Potter, however most of the time plaque psoriasis is something that needs continued maintenance treatment.
“For many people psoriasis can be difficult to live with. It can impact your sleep, because it is uncomfortable and itchy. If someone has psoriatic arthritis it can affect their work and confidence. The good news is that there are now many different treatment options to help patients treat this skin disease.”