Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin.
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakenly sends out signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Although psoriasis appears on the skin, it is not contagious.
There are five different types of psoriasis. In most cases, an individual has only one type at a time. The five types of psoriasis are:
Plaque Psoriasis – Plaque psoriasis is the most prevalent form of the disease – about 80% of people with psoriasis have this type. Plaque psoriasis is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. This form of psoriasis typically affects the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.
Guttate Psoriasis – Guttate psoriasis usually starts in childhood or young adulthood. This form of psoriasis is characterized by small, red, individual spots on the skin with lesions usually appearing on the trunk and limbs.
Inverse Psoriasis – Inverse psoriasis appears in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in other skin folds around the genitals and the buttocks. This form of psoriasis is characterized by bright-red lesions that are smooth and shiny. Inverse psoriasis can become irritated from rubbing and sweating.
Pustular Psoriasis – Pustular psoriasis is primarily seen in adults and is characterized by white blisters of noninfectious pus surrounded by red skin. This form of psoriasis may be localized to certain areas of the body, such as the hands, or it may cover most of the body. The reddening of the skin takes place first, followed by the formation of pustules and scaling.
Erythrodermic Psoriasis – Erythrodermic psoriasis is the least common type of psoriasis. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. This form of psoriasis is characterized by widespread, fiery redness and exfoliation of the skin. People with erythrodermic psoriasis experiences severe itching and pain.
Psoriasis results when there is an abnormality or malfunction in the immune system. The root of the problem is a type of white blood cells, called T cells, which overgrow and attack the area of the skin where the psoriasis is located. Normally, the immune system protects your body from invaders; however, the immune system of someone with psoriasis promotes inflammation and the speedy growth of skin cells. Psoriasis clinical trials work to combat this malfunction of the immune system.
Symptoms of psoriasis depend largely on the type of psoriasis you have, but may include one or more of the following:
- Small scaling pots
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- Dry or cracked skin that may bleed
- Itching, burning or soreness of the skin
- Swollen and stiff joints
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles with flare-ups that take place for a few weeks or months. Flare-ups subside for a time and in some cases even go into complete remission.
The psoriasis clinical trials use treatments that aim to contain or inactivate the T cells that are causing the overgrowth of skin cells and remove psoriasis scales and smooth the skin. There are three different types of treatments for psoriasis: topical treatments, light therapy and systemic medications.
Topical treatments are creams and ointments that you apply to your skin directly. In mild to moderate cases of psoriasis, a topical treatment is often used alone. In more severe cases of psoriasis, a topical treatment can be used in combination with an oral medication or light therapy.
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, uses natural or artificial ultraviolet light. The simplest form of light therapy involves exposing the skin to a controlled amount of sunlight. This type of treatment is used either alone or in combination with other medications.
Oral or injected medications are used in more severe cases of psoriasis, or in cases of resistance to other types of treatment. Oral medications include:
- Retinoids – reduces the production of skin cells.
- Methotrexate – decreases the production of skin cells and suppresses inflammation.
- Cyclosporine – suppresses the immune system.
- Biologics – blocks the interactions between certain immune system cells and inflammatory pathways.
Read more about a psoriasis doctor in Worcester, MA.