Psoriasis: Things to Know

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month

(RxWiki News) August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. That means it's the perfect time to brush up on your psoriasis knowledge.

Psoriasis is a skin disease that affects over 5 million Americans. The condition causes the formation of thick, red patches with silvery scales that are itchy or painful. These patches usually appear around the face, scalp, back, knees, elbows and feet. Psoriasis is a long-term disorder that often occurs in those between 15 and 35 years old but can occur at any age.

How do you get psoriasis? It's triggered by a hyperactive immune system that causes inflammation and a fast rate of skin cell turnover. While normal skin cells take about a month to rise to the surface of the skin, psoriatic cells rise in a few days before they even fully develop. The new and old cells then stack on top of each other and result in redness and discomfort.

Genetics also plays a role in psoriasis. Those who have a family member with psoriasis may have a greater chance of developing this disease. Psoriasis is not contagious.

There are five types of psoriasis: plaque, inverse, guttate, pustular and erythrodermic. They all have unique characteristics, which can help your health care provider determine which type you have.

Psoriasis is diagnosed by a dermatologist or another health care provider who will examine your skin. Sometimes, a health care provider may even take a piece of the patchy skin and look at it under a microscope.

Treatment for psoriasis depends on how widespread and severe it is. The typical treatments for psoriasis occurring in a specific part of the body include light therapy or topical medications. If psoriasis affects many parts of your body or is extremely severe, your health care provider may prescribe oral or injectable drugs.

About 30 percent of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis — usually between the ages of 30 and 50. This condition can cause pain, swelling and stiffness around the joints. Your health care provider will determine the best course of therapy for you.

After using over-the-counter medications, if you get a rash that does not go away, notify your health care provider right away.