Psoriasis (sore-EYE-a-sis) can first strike at any age, causing dry, painful skin lesions that itch, crack, and can bleed. While psoriasis is commonly considered a skin disease, it is actually an internal, immune system disorder that leads to inflammation inside the body and skin symptoms on the outside. It is not contagious.
Fortunately, for most people with psoriasis, the disease is mild, and will stay mild. They might have patches of dry skin on their elbows or knees and be able to treat it with over-the-counter or prescription creams and lotions.
Still, for millions of other Americans, psoriasis is a daily impediment, one that can negatively impact quality of life. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body.
Psoriasis increases the likelihood of having other conditions and diseases, most commonly psoriatic arthritis, which eventually develops in about 30% of psoriasis patients, typically years after skin symptoms first appear. Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic, progressive disease that causes pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. The fingers, toes, and spine are common trouble spots. Changes in the nails are another hallmark of psoriatic arthritis, and fatigue is a frequent symptom. As with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis can range from mild to severe.
Psoriasis can be emotionally and psychologically challenging. The visible nature of psoriasis can interfere with intimacy and self-esteem. Psoriasis patients also have a higher incidence of depression, so you really need to take notice of your mood and get help if you feel down for a sustained period of time.
Media and internet coverage of psoriasis focuses extensively (we would say excessively) on stress and diet as possible triggers. But that might reflect more a human need to make sense of the unknown, and the self-serving claims of nutritional supplement marketers, rather than scientific evidence, which suggests diet plays very little role. Genetics and other factors – like skin injury or strep throat – can play roles in triggering the disease.