Psoriasis is a common skin condition affecting over 7 million people in the U.S. It is a chronic immune-mediated disease that increases the growth cycle of cells skin cells. Normal skin cells shed every 28-30 days, but in psoriasis the turnover rate is much faster. This causes areas of the skin to become thick. There are various types of psoriasis that include pustular, erythrodermic, plaque, guttate, and inverse. Although not known for sure, psoriasis may be influenced by genetics, and affects Caucasians more than African Americans.
Psoriasis can also be caused by environmental factors. According to Jane Brody of the New York Times recent research has demonstrated that
“T-cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the body’s immune defenses, overreact in the presence of certain environmental factors, speeding the production of skin cells…common triggers are stressful events, injury to the skin, a strep throat and certain medications, including lithium, anti-malarial drugs, some beta-blockers (used to treat high blood pressure), overuse of corticosteroids and even nicotine patches.”
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Thus, along with genetics and social factors, like heavy alcohol use, environmental factors may also play a significant role in the development of psoriasis.
In addition to physical symptoms like itching, bleeding, and inflammation, people with psoriasis may also feel depressed, socially stigmatized, and embarrassed because of their condition. Psoriasis is not spread from person to person, and is not affected by hygiene.
Summertime is the least miserable of all of the seasons for people with this disorder since the humidity, sunshine and warmth can temporarily provide relief to the affected areas. UVB is especially helpful because it penetrates the skin and can slow the abnormal cell growth. Often times, patients are treated with phototherapy to relieve their symptoms. For those suffering from psoriasis, it is important to keep skin moisturized, take short warm showers (to prevent over-drying) and apply prescription steroid cream topically.