Understanding Psoriasis And Its Various Forms
As we age, and particularly as we hit the over 50s landmark, we can find ourselves being bothered by illnesses and health conditions that never affected us before. One of these is psoriasis, a non-contagious skin condition that can rear its head in a very unpleasant way at this time of life.
Many of us think of psoriasis as a single condition that just attacks the skin but in fact there are many types; plaque, scalp, guttate, pustular and nail psoriasis and even psoriatic arthritis.
Not only does it look unpleasant but it can cause the skin to itch and split. You may find yourself afflicted with it most of the time or it may come and go, worsening at different periods in your life. Affecting between 2-3% if the population, it can make life uncomfortable and be very irritating.
Let’s take a brief look at the different types:
This creates patches on the skin referred to as plaques. Pink in colour, they are scaly and rough. It can suddenly appear anywhere on the body, frequently showing up on knees and elbows and even the scalp. It is also known as psoriasis vulgaris which means common psoriasis.
This is very similar to plaque psoriasis and is particularly uncomfortable when it shows up on the scalp. Looking a little like dandruff, it will be itchy and can even result in hair loss.
This is actually a form of chronic plaque psoriasis and is much the same except it does not have the scales. It hides in folds in the skin so you may find it under breasts and under armpits or in the groin.
This shows up as small fluid-filled spots called pustules that are red and sore and often show on the soles of your feet and palms of your hands. If it shows elsewhere on the body it should always be referred to your G.P who can then refer you to a dermatologist if necessary.
If you have small dents in your nails or if the nail is lifting away from the bed and thickening, you may have nail psoriasis. Discoloured patches can also show up. This type is more common in people who have psoriatic arthritis, as well as elderly patients.
This shows itself as small round plaques on the body, often no more than 1cm in diameter; it can last a few weeks and then suddenly disappear. It is more common among children and teenagers.
The word erythema actually means ‘redness’ and it can create large red and sore areas on the skin. A fever may accompany it but luckily it is quite rare. It is also a serious condition so should always be treated urgently by a doctor or via a hospital.
Not many of us are aware that psoriasis can impact upon the joints but if you have painfully stiff joints, this can be psoriatic arthropy, a form of arthritis. It is most commonly found in fingers and toes. This type of psoriasis tends to develop about 10 years after the first signs and symptoms of psoriasis.
What are the risk factors and triggers?
- Family history – approximately 30% of all patients have a close relative who has the condition.
- HIV patients have a higher risk of developing the condition.
- Mental stress
- Recurring infections, particularly throat infections.
- Being overweight or obese, when plaques can develop in skin folds and creases.
- Heavy alcohol consumption can make the symptoms worse.
- Some medications may cause flare-ups. These include beta blockers, corticosteroids, anti-malarial drugs, ace-inhibitors and lithium.
Psoriasis does not have to be serious but it can be incredibly uncomfortable as well as itchy and sore. Whilst there are various remedies available to treat mild psoriasis in all of its many forms, serious or prolonged symptoms should always be referred to your doctor.
Tomorrow we will take a look at living with the condition and the best ways to manage your discomfort.
If you would like more help and advice, click on this link to the UK Psoriasis Association.
Finally, if you think this information may benefit a friend or loved one, don’t hesitate to pass it on via the links at the bottom of the page.