Facts about psoriasis
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a genetic skin disease associated with the immune system. Your immune system causes your skin cells to reproduce too quickly. A normal skin cell matures and falls off the body's surface in 28 to 30 days. However, skin affected by psoriasis takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up and form lesions. The skin also becomes very red due to increased blood flow.
Is psoriasis contagious?
Psoriasis is not contagious. It is not something you can "catch" or "pass on." The lesions may not look good, but they are not infections or open wounds. People with psoriasis pose no threat to the health or safety of others.
Who gets psoriasis?
The disease affects more than 8 million people in the U.S. Ordinarily, people have their first outbreak between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can appear at any age. Approximately one-third of those who get psoriasis are under 20 years old when the disease first surfaces.
What causes psoriasis?
No one knows exactly what causes psoriasis, but it has a genetic component. Most researchers agree that the immune system is mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. A person can have the genes for psoriasis without having the disease on their skin. Genes may be passed through several generations of a family before someone encounters the "right" mix of genes and environmental factors that lead to the development of psoriasis.
Is there a cure?
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis. However, there is hope for a cure. Researchers are studying psoriasis more than ever before. They understand much more about its genetic causes and how it involves the immune system. The National Psoriasis Foundation and the federal government are promoting and funding research to find the cause and cure for psoriasis.
Are there different types of psoriasis?
There are five forms of psoriasis:
- Plaque [plak] psoriasis: The most common form, characterized by inflamed skin lesions topped with white scales
- Guttate [GUH-tate]: Characterized by small dot-like lesions
- Pustular [PUHS-choo-ler]: Characterized by pus-filled, blister-like lesions and intense scaling
- Inverse: characterized by intense inflammation in the folds of the skin
- Erythrodermic [eh-REETH-ro-der-mik]: Characterized by intense shedding and redness of the skin. If this rare form develops, see a doctor immediately
Approximately 10 percent to 30 percent of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. This form of arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis. It can develop at any time, but for most people it appears between the ages of 30 and 50. In psoriatic arthritis, the joints and the soft tissue around them become inflamed and stiff. Psoriatic arthritis can affect the fingers and toes and may involve the neck, lower back, knees and ankles. Having psoriasis does not guarantee that you will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis.