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Causes, symptoms and treatment

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition of the skin characterised by the rapid build-up of skin cells. This collection of dermis (skin) cells causes scaling on the skin’s surface. Redness and inflammation around the scales is relatively common. Typical psoriatic scales develop in thick, red patches and are whitish-silver. Sometimes, these patches crack and bleed.

In healthy individuals, skin cells grow in the deep skin layer and slowly rise to the surface. Psoriasis is the consequence of a sped-up dermal cells production process. Eventually, they build up to form thick, red patches.

Types of psoriasis

  • Plaque psoriasis
  • Guttate psoriasis
  • Pustular psoriasis
  • Inverse psoriasis
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis

Sign & symptoms

Psoriasis symptoms depend on the type of psoriasis and differ from person to person. Areas covered by psoriasis can be as small as a few patches on the elbow or scalp or include most of the body. The most common sign & symptoms are;

  • Silver-white plaques or scales on the red patches
  • Red, raised, inflamed areas of skin
  • Soreness around patches
  • Dry skin that may crack and bleed
  • Thick, pitted nails
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Burning and itching sensations around patches

Not every individual with psoriasis experience all above symptoms. Some individuals will experience completely different symptoms depending on the type of psoriasis. When you have no active symptoms and signs of the condition, you may be in “remission” status. That doesn’t mean it won’t come back, but for now, you are symptom-free.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease means that it is caused by the person’s own exaggerated immune system.

Typically, skin cells take about 21 to 28 days to replace themselves, but, with individuals with psoriasis, they take around 3 to 7 days. What triggers this exaggerated reaction is still unclear, but the affected people may find that hormonal changes, stress and anxiety, infections and injuries to the skin can lead to a flare-up. Following are some factors that stimulate the likelihood of developing psoriasis.

  • Having metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular disease
  • Positive family history
  • Trauma to the skin
  • Medications that can trigger the condition include lithium, quinidine, antimalarials and indomethacin.
  • Some people associate this skin condition with diet, allergies and weather, but this is not proven.


Psoriasis has no definite cure. Treatments aim to reduce inflammation, redness and scales, remove plaques and slow the growth of skin cells. Psoriasis treatments fall into three primary categories: topical therapy, systemic therapy and light therapy.

 Topical therapy

Ointments, creams, and lotions are applied directly to the affected area that are helpful in reducing mild to moderate psoriasis. These include:

  • Topical retinoids
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D
  • Anthralin
  • Moisturiser
  • Salicylic acid

Hopefully, the case is not so severe it needs to go beyond this stage and where the use of steroid base products is involved, not used long term.

Systemic medications

Those who have not responded well to topical therapy or people with moderate to severe psoriasis may be advised to consider oral or injectable drugs. Many of these systemic medicines have severe adverse effects, so doctors usually recommend them for short periods of time.

The medications include:

  • Cyclosporine
  • Methotrexate
  • Retinoids
  • Biologics

 Light therapy

This psoriasis treatment utilise natural light or ultraviolet (UV). Sunlight kills the exaggerated white blood cells that are causing the rapid cell growth and attacking healthy skin cells. Both UVA (ultraviolet-A) and UVB (ultraviolet-B) light may be helpful in subsiding symptoms and signs of mild to moderate psoriasis.

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