Psoriasis is a skin condition where skin cells abnormally build up on the surface of the skin, forming thick, silvery-white layers of skin, called scales, and dry red spots that may be itchy or painful. Psoriasis actually alters the life cycle of one's skin cells, causing them to accumulate on the surface significantly faster than normal. This occurs when one's immune system confuses a skin cell to be a pathogen, triggering the overcompensating production of additional skin cells. Psoriasis is a common, chronic condition, which means that it is life-long. There is currently no cure for psoriasis, and the aim of treatment is to reduce or regulate the abnormal growth of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that may vary in severity, and lesions will manifest differently from person to person. Depending on the severity and which areas are affected, the different types of psoriasis are plaque, guttate, scalp, inverse, nail, pustular, and erythrodermic.
Definite causes of psoriasis remain unclear, but the condition is typically understood to be a malfunctioning of the immune system, which may be due to genes. Normally, the body's T-cells fight off foreign agents, such as infections. With psoriasis, the body's T-cells confuse normal, healthy skin cells with viruses or bacteria, and attack them as well. This results in the overproduction of new skin cells before the old cells can fall off, throwing the entire cycle of skin regeneration off balance. Psoriasis might be hereditary, and there are a number of risk factors that may contribute to the presence of psoriasis.
Typically, a doctor can diagnose a skin condition as psoriasis simply by looking at it. More rarely a biopsy might be necessary, in which a piece of skin is cut away and examined more closely. Psoriasis can often be confused for other skin conditions, including ringworm and certain forms of dermatitis.
Psoriasis is not curable, though various forms of treatment are available to reduce and alleviate symptoms. Once diagnosed, your doctor will likely refer you to a dermatologist, who will be able to recommend the best form of treatment. Treatment may vary from topical treatment, to light therapy, to other types of medication. The goal of psoriasis treatment is to both slow down the abnormal growth of skin cells, as well as reduce inflammation, dryness, and itching, and smoothen skin.
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