It affects two in every 100 people, yet very little is known about psoriasis and, as yet, there’s no cure. Here’s what you need to know.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects around 2% of the population. Sufferers experience red, flaky and crusty patches of skin which are covered with silvery scales.
It can start at any age, but most often develops in adults under 35 years of age. Men and woman are equally affected by the condition, and although it may be unsightly to look at, it is not contagious.
Understanding the condition
Psoriasis occurs when the process by which the body produces skin cells is accelerated. Usually, skin cells are made and replaced every three to four months, but with psoriasis, this process lasts just three to seven days. The resulting build-up of skin cells creates the patches of skin associated with psoriasis.
Although not fully understood, it is thought that the process associated with psoriasis is related to a problem with the immune system. Psoriasis can run in families, and there is thought to be a genetic element to the condition, but exact role genetics play in causing it are unclear.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but there is a range of treatments that can improve symptoms and the appearance of the affected skin. Most people’s symptoms start or become worse because of a particular event known as a trigger. These can include stress, anxiety, injury to the skin, throat infections and use of certain medication.
Spotting the signs and living with the condition
If you notice red raised patches of skin, particularly on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back the best thing to do is visit your GP for a diagnosis.
Most people affected only experience small patches of psoriasis, however severity varies from case to case. Some people experience itchiness or soreness. Some people find the condition affects their quality of life, reducing their self-esteem and confidence. It is also quite common for someone with the condition to develop tenderness, pain and swelling in the joints, known as psoriatic arthritis.
If you have psoriasis and have any concerns about the condition and how it affects your health and wellbeing you should speak to your GP, as they can offer you advice and further treatment if necessary. There are also a number of support groups, including The Psoriasis Association here you can speak to other people with the condition.
Treatments are improving all the time, from basic emollients that soothe your skin to steroid creams and medicines to suppress your immune system and slow down the production of skin cells. With a bit of trial and error, you can often keep the condition almost completely under control.
The following websites offer useful information and advice:
The Psoriasis Association
British Association of Dermatologists
Society members can also call the 24/7 Health Concern Advice Line on 0800 414 8100*