Psoriasis is a skin condition that is characterized by patches of red, inflamed and scaly skin. For some people the skin may crack and bleed, and be quit painful. Dermatologists estimate that 7 million Americans experience psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect any age group but the onset of the condition usually occurs gradual and full-blown diagnosis made between age 15 and 35.
Psoriasis periodically flares up and goes into remission. Psoriasis flare-ups can last for weeks or months or years. Approximately 10% of the people with psoriasis will also experience arthritis like symptoms.
Psoriasis is associated with abnormal growth of skin cells. In the normal growth and development of cells, new skin cells will move from the lowest layer of skin to the top layer to replace dead skin approximately every month. Once the skin cells become the top layer of skin, they die and scale off in flakes, thus completing the cycle. This normal process of skin renewal and death usually goes unnoticed. However, in individuals afflicted with psoriasis, this life cycle is sped up and results in a mass of dead skin cells on the top layer of skin, which forms the patchy, red and scaly areas on the skin.
Researchers have determined psoriasis is not contagious and they have been able to identified nine gene mutations that are associated with psoriasis, along with other factors. However, they have not been able to identify the exact cause specifically responsible for psoriasis.
Physicians are often able to diagnose the condition by visual examination of the skin alone. Less frequently a skin biopsy may be recommended to make a definitive diagnosis and to rule out any other skin disorders.
The visual examination would show an increased number of skin cells without signs of inflammation or infection. Individuals may also show marked changes in the appearance of their nails, a strong indicator the individuals have psoriasis.
In the early stages of psoriasis, when the symptoms of the disease can be limited to small, rough patches of skin on the elbows make a definitive diagnosis difficult. Other symptoms of psoriasis such as dandruff, or what may look like a fungal infection, can be hard to recognize as signs of psoriasis. In the disease’s early stages, individuals can also experience nail pits, which can be misdiagnosed as a sign of other ailments.
A diagnosis of psoriasis through visual examination will be uncomplicated if the doctor sees thick, red, white silvery patches of skin, which are the distinctive characteristics of diagnosis.
However, in cases where diagnosis is not so clear-cut, doctors may want to rule out other disorders that can produce symptoms that are similar to psoriasis. Diseases such as seborrheic psoriasis or scalp psoriasis, which is hard to distinguish from seborrheic dermatitis, generalized erythrodermic psoriasis, which can be confused with drug allergic reactions, and fungal infections, where diminished circulatory can cause nail changes, which is a typical symptom of psoriasis.
The diagnosis of psoriasis is usually clinical, which means that the doctors would diagnose psoriasis after a careful examination of the skin. Currently there are tests, except for a biopsy, that are available to help doctors make definitive diagnosis of psoriasis.
Psoriasis sufferers have several treatment options available to relief some of the pain and discomfort that characterize psoriasis. Unfortunately many of the current medications for treating psoriasis have side effects and should be used only as last resorts. However, there are natural treatments that an individual can used to avoid these medications, which can significantly affect the body’s immune system, possibility resulting in flare-ups or worsening of psoriasis and other side effects.