Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious. Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the U.S. It is estimated that as many as 125 million people throughout the world have psoriasis. Psoriasis causes skin redness and irritation that can appear anywhere on the body. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches.There are five types of psoriasis. Psoriasis appears in a variety of forms with distinct characteristics. Typically, an individual has only one type of psoriasis at a time.
Plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris) is the most common form of the disease. About 80 percent of those who have psoriasis have this type. It is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.
Guttate psoriasis is a form of psoriasis that often starts in childhood or young adulthood. The word guttate is from the Latin word meaning "drop." This form of psoriasis appears as small, red, individual spots on the skin. Guttate lesions usually appear on the trunk and limbs. These spots are not usually as thick as plaque lesions.
Inverse psoriasis is found in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in other skin folds around the genitals and the buttocks. This type of psoriasis appears as bright-red lesions that are smooth and shiny. Inverse psoriasis is subject to irritation from rubbing and sweating because of its location in skin folds and tender areas. It can be more troublesome in overweight people and those with deep skin folds.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis that affects most of the body surface. It is characterized by widespread, fiery redness of the skin and the shedding of scales in sheets, rather than smaller flakes. The shedding of the skin is often accompanied by severe itching and pain, heart rate increase, and fluctuating body temperature.
There are three basic methods for treating psoriasis: topical medications, internal medications and photo therapy.
Most cases of psoriasis are treated with medications that are placed directly on the skin. These include creams and ointments, dandruff shampoos, moisturizers, medicines containing vitamin D or vitamin A.
Severe psoriasis may be treated with medicines to suppress the body's immune response. These medicines include methotrexate or cyclosporine. Also, new drugs called "biologics" are used to specifically target the body's immune response. This includes: Adalimumab (Humira), Alefacept (Amevive), Etanercept (Enbrel), and Infliximab (Remicade).
Photo therapy is a medical treatment in which your skin is carefully exposed to ultraviolet light.
Home remedies include oatmeal baths that soothe and loosen scales, moderate sun exposure and techniques such as meditation to relieve stress.