Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by the rapid growth of skin cells, leading to the formation of thick, scaly patches on the skin. While the exact cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development. Some factors that may trigger or worsen psoriasis include stress, skin injury, certain medications, infections, and cold weather. It is important to note that psoriasis is not contagious and cannot be spread from person to person.
Do Genetics Cause Psoriasis?
One of the main factors contributing to psoriasis is genetics. Studies have shown that people with a family history of the condition are more likely to develop it themselves. In fact, around one-third of people with psoriasis have a close relative who also has the condition.
Researchers have identified several genes that may be linked to psoriasis, including those involved in the immune system, skin cell growth, and inflammation. Variations in these genes may make some people more susceptible to developing psoriasis when exposed to certain triggers.
The Role of the Immune System in Psoriasis
The immune system is believed to play an active role in the development of psoriasis. Psoriasis is considered an autoimmune disease, as it is characterized by an overactive immune response that attacks healthy skin cells. Normally, the immune system helps to protect the body from infection and disease. However, in people with psoriasis, immune cells, called T-cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells, leading to inflammation and the rapid growth of skin cells. This immune response causes the formation of psoriatic lesions.
As an autoimmune disease, psoriasis is similar to other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, which also involve the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy cells in the body.
In addition to genetics and the immune system, several environmental factors can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis. These include:
Stress. Emotional stress can trigger or worsen psoriasis in some people.
Skin Injury. Injuries to the skin, such as cuts, scrapes, or sunburns, can trigger the development of psoriasis in some individuals.
Infections. Certain infections, such as strep throat, can trigger psoriasis or worsen existing symptoms.
Medications. Some medications, including beta-blockers, lithium, and antimalarial drugs, can trigger or worsen psoriasis in some individuals.
Cold Weather. Cold weather can dry out the skin, triggering psoriasis or making existing symptoms worse.
When to Seek Medical Care for Psoriasis
Psoriasis can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are many treatments available to manage symptoms and improve skin health. It is important to seek medical care for psoriasis if you experience any of the following:
Severe itching, pain, or discomfort. If your psoriasis symptoms are causing significant discomfort or interfering with your daily activities, it may be time to seek medical care. Your dermatologist can recommend treatments to help relieve itching, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
Joint pain or swelling. Psoriasis can sometimes affect the joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to consult with a rheumatologist or other healthcare provider to rule out conditions such as psoriatic arthritis.
Widespread or severe psoriasis. If your psoriasis covers a large area of your body or is particularly severe, your dermatologist may recommend more aggressive treatment options such as phototherapy, systemic medications, or biologic drugs.
Emotional distress. Psoriasis can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional well-being, causing feelings of anxiety, depression, or social isolation. If you are struggling with the emotional effects of psoriasis, it is important to seek support from a mental health professional or support group.
New or changing symptoms. If you notice any new or changing symptoms related to your psoriasis, such as a sudden increase in severity or the development of new lesions, it is important to seek medical care to ensure that you are receiving appropriate treatment.
Another reason to seek treatment is the location of psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis is particularly stubborn and does not always respond to conventional topical medications. Involvement of exposed areas such as the face and hands is not only emotionally distressing but can impact the ability to obtain and maintain employment since many people do not understand psoriasis. Having psoriasis in the anogenital region (penis, vulva, groin creases, buttocks, perineum) is not only uncomfortable but can interfere with the ability to engage in social interactions.
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are many treatment options available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. If you have not been to a dermatologist in a while, there are new medications – both oral and topical applications – that are safe and effective without containing corticosteroids and without being immunosuppressive.
If you suspect that you may have psoriasis, it is important to consult with a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Call our office today at (913) 469-1115 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kaplan and the team at Adult and Pediatric Dermatology.