Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that affects around 1-2% of the population with 2 main peaks one being around teenage years and the other around the 5th decade of life. Psoriasis can however occur at any age including during childhood. The condition clinically presents with red patches and plaques (appear similar to a patch but are raised) with white to silvery scales on top. The typical sites involved are the elbows, knees, lower legs and scalp. Psoriasis can be limited such as affecting the scalp or elbows only or more widespread affecting many parts of the body. It is not uncommon for psoriasis to start on one site and over time other areas may get involved. The condition is not infectious and therefore not contagious.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown but there is enough evidence to suggest a personal predisposition to develop psoriasis (which can in some cases be genetically determined) and once faced with certain triggers then the disease can be initiated. These triggers include stress, alcohol intake, infections, and in some causes medication. It is therefore possible that an adult person with no previous skin conditions or any plaques of psoriasis can suddenly develop red and scaly patches on the arms or legs following a sore throat or an episode of severe stress. Psoriasis is a chronic relapsing condition which means that there is no definitive cure but the disease can be controlled and suppressed and may flare up episodically.
There are different treatments available for psoriasis and it is one field of dermatology where over the last few years considerable advances have been made in terms of treatment. Limited psoriasis can be treated with a wide range of topical creams containing vitamin D analogues or tar preparations. “Systemic” therapy for psoriasis relates to tablets that are taken which either modulates or suppresses the immune system and can be very effective in the treatment of psoriasis but will require some form of blood monitoring. Lastly, there are injections that are referred to as “biological therapy” which modulates the immune system and are highly effective in the treatment of psoriasis but are reserved for hospital treatment only.
Professor Firas Al-Niaimi has published many clinical papers on psoriasis and these can be found in the publications section of the website.
What causes Psoriasis?
The exact cause for psoriasis is unknown, but in very basic medical terms, psoriasis occurs when skin cells are replaced more quickly than usual. This can be caused for a number of reasons:
Family history and genetics
Uncontrolled or severe stress
Triggered by bacterial or viral infections
Triggered by certain medication
If you suffer with psoriasis, you have probably already sought medical advice from you GP. Mild to moderate sufferers can often maintain the condition with topical treatments, and sometimes may be advised to have UVB treatment. The problem with UVB treatment is that it can only target certain areas of the body (not the scalp, which is a common place to suffer with psoriasis), and you can only have a limited amount of treatment sessions due to the danger of UV exposure. If your condition is more severe, you may be offered systematic medication, but this can affect your immune system even further.
Your best option is to seek advice from a reputable dermatologist, such as Dr Firas Al-Niaimi, who consults from Harley Street, London. Please click here to get in contact with his team.