Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It usually appears as pink patches on the skin with white-silvery scales. Any part of the body can be affected but it tends to involve the scalp, face, elbows and knees. It can occur at any age but most commonly starts around teenage or early adulthood. Apart from affecting the skin, psoriasis can also affect the nails and joints. Individuals with psoriasis also have a higher risk of developing other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.
The exact cause of psoriasis is not known but it is believed to have a genetic basis, leading to an overactive immune system attacking healthy skin cells. The severity and extent of psoriasis varies from person to person. Psoriasis can be aggravated by factors such as: alcohol, infection, stress, trauma to the skin and certain medications.
Although psoriasis is not a dangerous condition, it has significant psychosocial implications. Individuals with psoriasis can develop low self esteem and depression as a result of the skin disorder.
There are several treatments options for psoriasis. They can be broadly categorized into the following groups:
1. Topical treatments ( eg coal tar, steroids, vitamin D analogues)
3. Systemic treatments ( ie oral medications)
4. Biologic treatments ( these are usually injection type medications that block certain molecular pathways which are important in psoriasis)
Treatment for psoriasis needs to be tailored to the individual depending on the extent and severity of the skin problem.