Psoriasis

The cause of psoriasis, which is an inflammatory skin condition, is not fully understood but medical research has come to the conclusion that psoriasis starts with the immune system. We all have T cells (a type of white blood cell) which usually protect us from infection and disease by attacking bacteria and viruses. When we have psoriasis, our T cells attack our skin cells instead. Our body immediately responds by producing more skin cells. This rapid production of new skin cells is an acceleration of the usual replacement process of the skin. A normal skin cell matures in 21 to 28 days but a psoriasis cell will only take 2 to 3 days and the result is an accumulation of dead cells and live cells in visible layers. The final appearance is of raised red patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

Psoriasis is not contagious nor can it be transferred from one part of the body to another. About one third of sufferers have at least one family member with the same condition so there is a genetic link. There are several different types of psoriasis and they can all cause itching and great discomfort. The skin can crack and bleed and the itching can be severe. Fingernails and toenails are frequently affected. The different types of psoriasis are:

-- Plaque psoriasis which is the most common, occurring in about 80% of cases. The patches usually form on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp.

-- Flexural or inverse psoriasis which is where the condition appears as smooth but inflamed patches of skin in the skin folds, but especially around the genitals, the armpits and under the breasts. It is affected by friction and sweat, and is vulnerable to fungal infections because of its appearance in the skin folds.

-- Guttate psoriasis which causes small red spots on the skin and often over large areas of the body. It is also often associated with strep throat infections.

-- Pustular psoriasis which results in bumps containing non infectious pus surrounded by red skin. This condition sometimes appears in just the hands and feet or otherwise widespread patches on the body. Nail psoriasis which affects the appearance of fingers and toe nails. There may be discoloring under the nail plates, pitting or lines in the nails, loosening and crumbling of the nail or thickening of the skin underneath the nail.

-- Erythrodermic psoriasis which results in widespread redness, severe itching and considerable pain and discomfort. This form of psoriasis can be fatal as the extreme inflammation and exfoliation affect the body's ability to regulate temperature and for the skin to perform barrier functions.

Diagnosis is usually based on the appearance of the skin while any tests done are more to rule out other disorders. It is important to commence treatment so that the sufferer can return to a more normal way of life. A natural healing product can be helpful here and the scales of psoriasis should improve almost immediately, followed by the affected areas returning to a more normal thickness.

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