Plaque psoriasis is a common skin condition that changes the life cycle of skin cells.
Psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin. The extra skin cells form thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful.
Psoriasis is a persistent, long-lasting (chronic) disease. There may be times when your psoriasis symptoms get better alternating with times your psoriasis worsens.
What causes Plaque Psoriasis?
Normally a skin cell matures in 21 to 28 days. During this time it travels to the surface of the skin, where it is lost in a constant, invisible shedding of dead cells.
In patches of psoriasis the turnover of skin cells is much faster, around four to seven days, and this means that even live cells can reach the surface and accumulate with dead cells.
It is thought cells in the immune system (T cells) become overactive, leading to rapid growth of skin cells and the formation of psoriatic plaques.
The extent of psoriasis and how it affects an individual varies from person to person.
Some may only be mildly affected with a tiny patch hidden away which does not bother them, while others may have large, visible areas of skin involved that significantly affect daily life and relationships.
The process is the same wherever it occurs on the body.
Psoriasis typically starts or worsens because of a trigger that you may be able to identify and avoid. Factors that may trigger psoriasis include:
Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, bug bite, or a severe sunburn
Heavy alcohol consumption
Certain medications —high blood pressure medications such as beta blockers; antimalarial drugs.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can develop psoriasis, but these factors can increase your risk of developing the disease:
Family history Perhaps the most significant risk factor for psoriasis is having a family history of the disease. Having one parent with psoriasis increases your risk of getting the disease, and having two parents with psoriasis increases your risk even more.
Viral and bacterial infections People with HIV are more likely to develop psoriasis than people with healthy immune systems are. Children and young adults with recurring infections, particularly strep throat, also may be at increased risk.
Stress can impact your immune system, high stress levels may increase your risk of psoriasis.
Obesity increases the risk of psoriasis. Plaques associated with all types of psoriasis often develop in skin creases and folds.
Smoking tobacco not only increases your risk of psoriasis but also may increase the severity of the disease. Smoking may also play a role in the initial development of the disease.
What are the symptoms of Plaque Psoriasis?
Psoriasis signs and symptoms can vary from person to person but may include one or more of the following:
Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
Itching, burning or soreness
Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis patches can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas.
Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission.
Several types of psoriasis exist. These include:
How is Plaque Psoriasis diagnosed?
In most cases, diagnosis of psoriasis is fairly straightforward.
Physical exam and medical history Your doctor usually can diagnose psoriasis by taking your medical history and examining your skin, scalp and nails.
Skin biopsy Rarely, your doctor may take a small sample of skin (biopsy) that’s examined under a microscope to determine the exact type of psoriasis and to rule out other disorders. A skin biopsy can generally be done in a doctor’s office after application of a local anesthetic.
How is Plaque Psoriasis treated?
There are many topical and systemic (medicines taken internally) ways to treat psoriasis.