Ask the expert: What is psoriasis?

01 August 2019

Psoriasis is a skin condition that tends to flare up from time to time. It is one of the most common skin disorders affecting 2% of the population at any age and in both sexes equally.

As part of Psoriasis Awareness Month, Consultant Dermatologist, Professor David Burden has given advice on how to identify the condition and what treatment options there are.

Psoriasis is not infectious or scarring. Patches of psoriasis are red, covered by silvery-white scales, and can affect any area of skin, but most usually on the knees, elbows, trunk or scalp.

Psoriasis can start at any age. The severity of the condition varies from person to person from minor irritation to a condition that significantly affects an individual’s quality of life. Although it may come and go, unfortunately, once you develop psoriasis it tends to be with you through life. In most people who have psoriasis, there is no apparent reason why a flare-up develops at any given time.

However, in some people, psoriasis is more likely to flare up in certain situations. Events that can trigger psoriasis include a throat infection, stress or an injury to the skin, but for most, there is no obvious cause. Sunlight improves psoriasis, though occasionally it makes it worse (especially if the skin gets burned). High alcohol intake and smoking can worsen psoriasis, as can some medicines. Putting on weight can also make matters worse.

The cause of psoriasis is genetic, and it will often run in the family. Psoriasis results from an imbalance in immunity that leads to acceleration of the body’s production of skin cells (keratinocytes). In most individuals, the process of replacing keratinocytes takes between three and four months but in cases of psoriasis, this is speeded up to as little as every three days. This results in a build-up of skin cells, giving a ‘patchy’ appearance to the skin.

Although psoriasis cannot yet be cured, it can be effectively treated in a number of ways including with creams, ultraviolet light therapy, tablets and injections. These reduce scaling and redness, in some people to the point at which the skin can look completely normal.

For further information click here or if you have any concerns, call us on 0131 316 2507 to find out how our dermatologists could help.

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