Psoriasis is a skin condition in which skin cells multiply faster than they are supposed to and faster than the cells surrounding the irritated patch multiply. They develop so quickly that the volume of cells as they come to the surface and die causes raised, red bumps, referred to as plaques. The plaques are often covered with white scales. Psoriasis generally affects knees, elbows, scalp, torso, palms, and soles of feet, although it can occur anywhere on the body.
The plaques of red skin are generally itchy and can be painful and sometimes crack and bleed, creating a very unsightly patch of red sores on the skin. Once the skin cracks, it risks infection as well.
What causes psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an auto-immune problem. It can be genetic, but not everyone with the genes for psoriasis will suffer from outbreaks. When an outbreak occurs, it is because your immune system has sent a signal to your skin that tells the skin to produce more skin cells. An outbreak can be triggered by emotional or physical stress, including streptococcal infections. Your skin goes into overdrive and produces way more skin cells than your body can handle. As the new cells move to the top layer of your skin, there are so many that instead of sloughing off over time as old cells die, they pile up, causing thick, flaky patches that are often red and itchy.
There is no cure for psoriasis but there are many different treatments, both over the counter and prescription. A board-certified dermatologist should be consulted whenever you have a rash or blisters or broken skin in order to appropriately diagnosis and set a course of treatment.
What treatments are available for psoriasis?
Psoriasis in incurable, but treatable. Treatments may include topical ointments or prescription medicines. But one of the earliest and still most effective treatments for psoriasis was developed in the 1920s by a man named Dr. Goeckerman. Today’s variation of this treatment involves doctors applying a topical cream or ointment made from coal tar and then using light therapy to activate the cream / ointment.
If you suffer from severe plaque psoriasis and more standard treatments haven’t helped, the dermatologists at Dermatologic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery can answer your questions about the options for treating psoriasis.