Whether you are newly diagnosed or have been coping with the disease for years, this section from can help answer your basic questions about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated, genetic disease manifesting in the skin and/or the joints. It is a non-contagious and life-long skin disease that has different forms. Some people may have a spot or two, while others may have extensive coverage on their body.
What is Psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of joint disease that is strongly associated with psoriasis. This form of arthritis damages the bone and connective tissue around the joints.
- How can someone who is newly diagnosed take action?
- How can people inform others about their disease?
- What are the most common questions about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are serious diseases that affect more than 4.5 million people in the United States. A person’s quality of life—including emotional health—can be seriously jeopardized. Because of this, it is important to understand the full impact of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. This information is attributed to www.psoriasis.org.
Q: What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated, genetic disease manifesting in the skin and/or the joints. It affects more than 4.5 million people in the United States. In plaque psoriasis, the most common type, patches of skin called "lesions" become inflamed and are covered by silvery white scale. Psoriasis can be limited to a few lesions or can involve moderate to large areas of skin. The severity of psoriasis can vary from person to person; however, for most people, psoriasis tends to be mild.
Q: Is psoriasis contagious?
No, psoriasis is not contagious. It is not something you can "catch" or "pass on." The psoriatic lesions may not look good, but they are not infections or open wounds. People with psoriasis pose no threat to the health or safety of others.
Q: What causes psoriasis?
No one knows exactly what causes psoriasis, but it is believed to have a genetic component. Most researchers agree that the immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. A normal skin cell matures and falls off the body's surface in 28 to 30 days. But a psoriatic skin cell takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up and form the lesions.
Q: Who gets psoriasis?
The average age of diagnosis is 28, and psoriasis most often appears between the ages of 15 and 35; however, it can develop at any time—a first-time diagnosis of psoriasis has been seen in elderly people, small children and even newborn babies. Psoriasis in infants is rare, but between 10 percent and 15 percent of people with psoriasis get it before age 10. Between 150,000 and 260,000 new cases of psoriasis are diagnosed each year.
Q: How is psoriasis diagnosed?
No special blood tests or diagnostic tools exist to diagnose psoriasis. The physician or other health care provider usually examines the affected skin and decides if it is from psoriasis. Less often, the physician examines a piece of skin (biopsy) under the microscope.
Q: Is all psoriasis alike?
No. There are various forms of psoriasis. Plague psoriasis is the most common. Other forms are:
- Guttate, characterized by small dot-like lesions
- Pustular, characterized by weeping lesions and intense scaling
- Inverse, characterized by intense inflammation
- Erythordemic, characterized by intense shedding and redness of the skin
Psoriasis can range from mild to moderate to very severe and disabling.
Q: What parts of the body are affected?
Psoriasis most commonly appears on the scalp, knees, elbows and torso. But psoriasis can develop anywhere, including the nails, palms, soles, genitals and face (which is rare). Often the lesions appear symmetrically, which means in the same place on the right and left sides of the body.
Q: Do people know they are going to get psoriasis?
It is not possible to predict who will get psoriasis. About one out of three people with psoriasis have with a family history of the disease. Physical trauma to the skin, infections, stress and reactions to certain drugs can trigger psoriasis, even in people without a family history of psoriasis.
The National Psoriasis Foundation created and supports the National Psoriasis Tissue Bank to help investigate the genetic causes of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Q: Do people get health complications from psoriasis?
Yes. The skin, the largest organ in the body, plays an important role. It controls body temperature and serves as a barrier to infection. Large areas of psoriasis can lead to infection, fluid loss and poor blood flow (circulation).
Q: Is psoriasis associated with other diseases?
Psoriatic arthritis is a specific type of arthritis that has been diagnosed in approximately 23 percent of people who have psoriasis, according to the Psoriasis Foundation’s 2001 Benchmark Survey. Psoriatic arthritis is similar to rheumatoid arthritis but generally milder. In psoriatic arthritis, the joints and the soft tissue around them become inflamed and stiff. Psoriatic arthritis can affect the fingers and toes and may involve the, neck, lower back, knees and ankles. In severe cases, psoriatic arthritis can be disabling and cause irreversible damage to joints.
Q: Does psoriasis affect a person's quality of life?
For the most part, people with psoriasis function normally. Sometimes people experience low self-esteem because of the psoriasis. Psoriasis is often misunderstood by the public, which can make social interactions difficult. This may lead to emotional reactions such as anxiety, anger, embarrassment and depression. Psoriasis can affect the type of work people do if it is visible.
Q: What is the economic impact of psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic (life-long) illness. Most people need ongoing treatments and visits to the doctor. In severe cases, people may need to be hospitalized. About 56 million hours of work are lost each year by people who suffer from psoriasis, and between $1.6 billion and $3.2 billion is spent per year to treat psoriasis.
Q: Is there a cure for psoriasis?
There is no cure, but many different treatments, both topical (on the skin) and systemic (throughout the body), can clear psoriasis for periods of time. People often need to try out different treatments before they find one that works for them.
Q: Is there hope that a cure will be found?
Yes. Researchers are studying psoriasis more than ever before. They understand much more about its genetic causes and how it involves the immune system. The National Psoriasis Foundation and the federal government are promoting and funding to find the cause and cure for psoriasis.