Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that develops when the skin renewal process is disrupted and “sped up.” As a result, skin cells develop and migrate to the skin surface too quickly to be adequately shed, allowing thick, scaly patches called plaques to form on the skin surface. The exact cause of psoriasis is not understood, but researchers believe it develops as a result of a “malfunction” in the body's immune system. Genetics also likely plays a role, since psoriasis is more likely to occur in people who have a family history of the condition. Psoriasis is not contagious – that is, you cannot “catch it” from someone else or spread it to other people.
In addition to the rough, thick, scaly patches that appear on the skin's surface, psoriasis can cause other symptoms, including:
intense itching, especially when the condition flares up
scaly, crusty patches on the scalp
pitted or discolored fingernails
bleeding when the affected areas are scratched
arthritic joints (psoriatic arthritis)
Additionally, in most people, plaques form in similar areas on both sides of the body – for instance, on both elbows or both knees. Symptoms are more prevalent during “flareups,” which can occur as a result of sun exposure, illness, chronic stress or other triggers.
Psoriasis cannot be cured, but there are treatments that can help relieve symptoms, including oral and topical medications, creams and lotions to keep skin soft and prevent cracking, itching and inflammation. Phototherapy that uses measured doses of ultraviolet light exposure may also be helpful. Many patients use a combination of treatments to achieve the best results. Dr. Westfried will work with you closely to develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific symptoms and needs.
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