Here’s how to tell if your rash could actually be psoriasis—and how to get the right treatment.
When you think of psoriasis, you may automatically assume that it’s just a cosmetic problem. It’s not. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease; the most prevalent one in the United States at that. Learn about other common psoriasis myths here.
Of the 7.5 million Americans who suffer from psoriasis—approximately 2.2 percent of the population—about 60 percent report that the condition significantly affects their quality of life.
“Psoriasis does have a profound effect on someone’s quality of life. It can lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Patients should realize that there is better hope now than ever before in treatments that can clear your skin and keep it clear for long periods of time.”
What Is Psoriasis, Exactly?
Psoriasis is a chronic disease that develops when a person’s skin cells grow too quickly (they form in a few days rather than weeks) due to faulty signals from the immune system. The body doesn’t shed these cells, so they pile up on the surface of the skin, which causes patches of psoriasis to appear.
“Normal skin cells will mature over about a period of two months and shedding will happen over three months. Psoriasis skin cells can mature in about five days,” says Dr. Friedler.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
The symptoms of psoriasis depend on the type of psoriasis you have. There are five main different types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. These different types can appear alone, or with another type.
The most common type is plaque psoriasis. “Psoriasis plaques are often red and have very thick, oyster-like scale on them. This can be uncomfortable and they can also be emotionally debilitating to patients,” says Dr. Friedler.
Signs of plaque psoriasis include:
- Red, flaky, and sometimes itchy skin
- Patches that are covered with a silvery-white coating, which dermatologists call scale
- Itchy patches that thicken when scratched
- Nail problems—pits in the nails, crumbling nail, nail falls off
The most common locations on the body for psoriasis to appear are elbows, knees, the belly button, the crease of the buttocks, and sometimes the scalp. Psoriasis can also appear in the body folds, like under the arms and in the groin folds, which is called inverse psoriasis.
How to Treat Psoriasis
The first step to getting the appropriate treatment is being able to differentiate psoriasis from other skin conditions, and getting properly diagnosed by a dermatologist. “Psoriasis treatment is different than treatment for other rashes, so getting the correct diagnosis from your dermatologist is important in ascertaining that you get the right therapies,” says Dr. Friedler.
Even though psoriasis can’t be cured, there are plenty of lifestyle adjustments that help psoriasis symptoms—like eating a psoriasis-friendly diet, relieving stress, and avoiding habits that can cause psoriasis flare-ups—and medications available that may not only help clear a patient’s skin (sometimes close to completely), but can also significantly improve their quality of life.
“Psoriasis has had an explosion of new therapies over the last few years and this has been providing great hope for patients who’ve been suffering with psoriasis,” says Dr. Friedler. “These new medication classes have also had a profound effect on patients affected by psoriatic arthritis by helping protect their joints and helping prevent progression of that debilitating disease.”
Dr. Friedler is a dermatologist and clinical instructor at The Mount Sinai Hospital and St. John's Episcopal Hospital.
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Psoriasis is a chronic skin
condition where faulty
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signals from the immune system cause skin
cells to form more rapidly than usual.
00:00:10,710 --> 00:00:14,980
That causes skin cells to be more
immature, so they'll turn red and
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cause thick scales to form as well.
00:00:17,370 --> 00:00:22,380
00:00:22,380 --> 00:00:25,970
Normal skin cells will mature over
a period of about two months and
00:00:25,970 --> 00:00:28,590
shedding will happen over three months.
00:00:28,590 --> 00:00:32,950
In psoriasis skin cells can
mature in only about five days.
00:00:32,950 --> 00:00:37,930
The most common symptom of psoriasis
is red, flaky, sometimes itchy skin.
00:00:37,930 --> 00:00:41,980
So the most common locations where
you might find psoriasis are elbows,
00:00:41,980 --> 00:00:46,430
knees, the belly button, the crease of
the buttocks, sometimes on the scalp.
00:00:46,430 --> 00:00:48,590
Psoriasis plaques are often red and
00:00:48,590 --> 00:00:52,170
often have very thick white
oyster-like scale on them.
00:00:52,170 --> 00:00:53,410
This can be uncomfortable, and
00:00:53,410 --> 00:00:57,140
they can also be very emotionally
debilitating to patients.
00:00:57,140 --> 00:01:00,740
You can also find psoriasis
at times in the body folds,
00:01:00,740 --> 00:01:03,260
under the arms and groin folds.
00:01:03,260 --> 00:01:05,390
So psoriasis in the armpits and
00:01:05,390 --> 00:01:08,740
in the body folds has a special
name called inverse psoriasis.
00:01:08,740 --> 00:01:11,730
In those areas psoriasis
will appear red and shiny.
00:01:11,730 --> 00:01:15,110
Sometimes it can be confused with
an allergy to your deodorant.
00:01:15,110 --> 00:01:18,360
Psoriasis treatment is different
than treatment for other rashes.
00:01:18,360 --> 00:01:22,020
So getting the correct diagnosis
from your dermatologist is important
00:01:22,020 --> 00:01:25,100
in ascertaining that you
get the correct therapies.
00:01:25,100 --> 00:01:28,220
So in treating a patient with psoriasis,
the first thing that we wanna
00:01:28,220 --> 00:01:31,470
establish is good skin care routine and
good skin hygiene.
00:01:31,470 --> 00:01:35,389
That might involve taking short showers,
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keeping stress levels low,
having a good diet.
00:01:38,077 --> 00:01:40,950
All of that can affect
the baseline of psoriasis.
00:01:40,950 --> 00:01:45,218
Psoriasis had an explosion of new
therapies over the last few years.
00:01:45,218 --> 00:01:48,542
And this has been providing great hope for
patients who've been suffering with
00:01:48,542 --> 00:01:51,110
psoriasis that's been quite
debilitating over the years.
00:01:51,110 --> 00:01:55,867
These new medication classes also have had
a profound effect on patients affected by
00:01:55,867 --> 00:01:57,210
00:01:57,210 --> 00:01:59,081
By helping protect their joints and
00:01:59,081 --> 00:02:02,400
helping prevent progression
of that debilitating disease.
00:02:02,400 --> 00:02:05,370
Psoriasis does have a profound
effect on someone's quality of life.
00:02:05,370 --> 00:02:09,950
It can lead to depression and
feelings of hopelessness.
00:02:09,950 --> 00:02:14,843
I think that patients should realize that
there is better hope now than ever before.
00:02:14,843 --> 00:02:17,911
And treatments that can clear
your skin and keep you clear for
00:02:17,911 --> 00:02:19,061
long periods of time.
00:02:19,061 --> 00:02:24,040
Psoriasis. American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on May 8, 2018 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/psoriasis)
Statistics. National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on May 8, 2018 at https://www.psoriasis.org/content/statistics)