A persistent skin disease.
Psoriasis is a genetic condition characterized by scaling red patches which can occur on any area of the skin, including the fingernails and toenails. The skin becomes inflamed, producing red, thickened areas with silvery scales. The most common areas of involvement include the scalp, elbows, knees, genitals and lower back/buttocks. It most commonly affects adults; however, it can be seen in children and teenagers, as well.
Above is an example of psoriasis on the scalp.
Below are examples of psoriatic outbreaks on the knees and finger nails:
Psoriasis is often hereditary and frequently can be found in other family members. Although external factors may aggravate psoriasis, the condition is not caused by dietary factors, soaps, detergents or stress. Psoriasis is not contagious. Because psoriasis is a genetic condition, it is not curable. It is, however, treatable.
1. Infections - primarily strep throats. It has been found that strep infections of the throat can precipitate psoriasis in children. Adults have had flares of psoriasis following strep throats, bad colds and flu.
2. Emotional stress - a significant percentage of patients will have a flare of psoriasis with stress.
3. Drugs - there are a large variety of drugs that can aggravate psoriasis, including beta-blockers, and can flare existing psoriasis in approximately 1/3 of the patients taking them. Lithium, oral cortisones, progesterone, iodides and even aspirin at times can be troublesome. Naprosyn, an aspirin-like drug, can aggravate psoriasis in some patients. It is important for patients to inform their physician regarding all medications they are taking.
4. Alcohol - excess alcohol will definitely aggravate psoriasis.
5. Irritation to your skin, including trauma from picking, scratching, scraping, and excess rubbing from tight clothing or sports appliances.
6. Excess sun or ultraviolet exposure - while ultraviolet light is usually beneficial, too much exposure can cause psoriasis to flare.
7. A cold, dry climate may adversely affect psoriasis in some individuals.
There are four basic types of therapy:
1) Topical therapies, including emollient creams and topical corticosteroids
2) Ultraviolet light therapy
3) Systemic (internal) medications
4) Biologic (injectable) medications
Most patients will respond to topical or ultraviolet light therapy. Systemic and biologic therapies are generally reserved for patients with severe or debilitating psoriasis.
Another effective treatment, which received FDA clearance in 2000, is the XTRAC Excimer laser, which produces amplified light and laser energy. This carefully focused beam of laser light is delivered through a fiber-optic device to specific targeted areas. The laser light delivers high-exposure doses necessary for treatment to involved areas without risk of damage to healthy skin. This is designed to clear unsightly psoriatic skin plaques quickly and effectively. XTRAC Excimer laser offers several advantages compared to other available psoriasis treatments, including fewer treatments and long-lasting relief, often leaving the patient symptom-free for several months. Also, there is no daily skin care regimen required.
Research into the treatment of psoriasis continues on a daily basis. After treating many patients with psoriasis, dermatologists know that psoriasis can be a very frustrating condition. Your medical provider will work with you to find the appropriate therapeutic regimen for your type of psoriasis. It may require several months of treatment before any improvement is seen.
Dermatologists encourage all patients with psoriasis to join the National Psoriasis Foundation and to continue their efforts to learn more about psoriasis and its treatment. Below is the contact information for this organization, including the website which has many valuable resources.
National Psoriasis Foundation: 6600 Southwest 92nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97223-7195
Phone: (503) 244-7404 or (800) 723-9166
Fax: (503) 245-0626
Psoriasis is very responsive to ultraviolet light therapy. Many psoriasis patients respond to sunlight therapy. At Advanced Dermatology Associates, we have ultraviolet light therapy units available for UVB, UVA, and PUVA therapy. We also have hand and foot units for the treatment of resistant psoriasis of the hands and feet.
Additional information with illustrations regarding UVB, UVA, and PUVA therapy can be found on our Services page under "Phototherapy".