Psoriasis 

Introduction
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can come and go over time.  Psoriasis causes red irritated flaky skin.  It is not contagious.  Although the exact cause and cure for psoriasis is unknown, there are many products and prescriptions that can help relieve your symptoms.

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Anatomy
Your skin is composed of three layers, the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue.  The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin.  It protects the inner layers.  The cells at the bottom layer of the epidermis continually move upward to the outer layer.  They eventually wear off and are replaced by the next layer of cells.  Researchers suspect that for people with psoriasis, new cells are produced and rise to the outer layer of skin too quickly causing a build-up of dead skin cells.

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Causes
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but researchers suspect the condition may be inherited in some families or may result from an immune system problem.

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Symptoms
Psoriasis causes areas of irritated red thick skin.  The affected areas may have flaky silver-white colored scales.  In males, psoriasis can cause genital sores.  Almost a third of people with psoriasis develop aching joints (psoriatic arthritis) and about 10% experience changes in nail appearance or separation of the nail from its base.

You should seek urgent care if you have a very severe outbreak of psoriasis that covers most of your body.

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Diagnosis
Your doctor can diagnose psoriasis by examining your skin.  A skin biopsy may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.

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Treatment
Mild psoriasis is treated with over-the-counter or prescription soaps, creams, shampoos, and moisturizers.  Oatmeal baths and careful sunlight exposure may help as well.  Your doctor may prescribe phototherapy.  Phototherapy involves selected exposure to ultraviolet light and may be used with treatment enhancing prescription medications.  Severe psoriasis is treated with prescription medication to reduce the immune response.  Biologics are a newer group of medications that combat the immune response.  People with very severe psoriasis over the majority of the body may need to be hospitalized.

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Prevention
There is no known way to prevent psoriasis, but there are steps you can take that may help reduce flare-ups.  It can be helpful to gently bathe or shower daily. Avoid vigorous scrubbing.  Pat yourself dry with a clean towel instead of rubbing your skin dry.

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Am I at Risk
Psoriasis develops most frequently between the ages of 15 and 35, although it may occur at any age.  People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, autoimmune disorders, cancer, or who are receiving chemotherapy may have an increased risk of psoriasis.  Psoriasis may be triggered by dry air, dry skin, certain medications (beta-blockers and lithium), stress, infection, alcohol, too little sunlight, and sunburn.

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Complications
Psoriasis can lead to skin infections and pain.

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.