What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin disorder that causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. This makes the skin build up into bumpy red patches covered with white scales. They can grow anywhere, but most appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Psoriasis can't be passed from person to person. It does sometimes happen in members of the same family.

Psoriasis usually appears in early adulthood. For most people, it affects just a few areas. In severe cases, psoriasis can cover large parts of the body. The patches can heal and then come back throughout a person's life.

Psoriasis triggers

Many people who are predisposed to psoriasis may be free of symptoms for years until the disease is triggered by some environmental factor. Common psoriasis triggers include:

• Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
• Weather, especially cold, dry conditions
• Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
• Stress
• Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
• Heavy alcohol consumption
• Certain medications – including lithium, high blood pressure medications and antimalarial drugs
• Rapid withdrawal of oral or systemic Corticosteroids

When to see a doctor

If you suspect that you may have psoriasis, see your doctor. Also, talk to your doctor if your psoriasis:

• Becomes severe or widespread
• Causes you discomfort and pain
• Causes you concern about the appearance of your skin
• Leads to joint problems, such as pain, swelling or inability to perform daily tasks
• Doesn't improve with treatment