Psoriasis is a chronic condition that affects about 2% (or 7.5 million) of the American population and can cause a variety of skin and nail changes. It can range from a minor nuisance to an embarrassing and debilitating illness and affect all demographics (including Kim Kardashian West, pictured). However, the most common form, psoriasis vulgaris or plaque psoriasis, appears as silvery, scaly and red plaques on the skin. There are several interesting facts associated with the condition:
- Strep throat has been associated with flares of psoriasis.
- If both parents have psoriasis then there is a 75% chance the child will develop psoriasis is 75%; if one parent has psoriasis, the risk of a child developing the disease is 15%.
- Psoriasis can even affect the joints. It is estimated that up to 30% of patients with psoriasis in the skin will develop some form of joint involvement.
“We don’t completely understand why some people get psoriasis, but we do know that it has a genetic component and can also be triggered by certain environmental exposures,” says Dr. Jeremy Fenton from Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. Yet, with a variety of treatment options ranging from topical creams to light therapy to systemic medications, there are many options and new ones in the pipeline. Dr. Fenton suggests the following:
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important in managing psoriasis– avoiding smoking, minimizing alcohol, keeping a healthy weight, and avoiding stress.
- Other psoriasis triggers include trauma to the skin, infections/illness, and certain drugs such as beta blockers and aspirin.
- Natural sunlight can help improve psoriasis–this may be one of the few instances when you will hear a dermatologist recommend tanning. Of course, sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer and aging, so it is much safer to get targeted ultraviolet light treatments in a doctor’s office. Dermatologists provide in-office UV exposure with a very specific wavelength of light (narrow-band UVB) that is the most effective on psoriasis.
- Psoriasis patients can benefit from over-the-counter topical treatments such as salicylic acid or tar-based treatments and shampoos (Neutrogena’s T-Gel or T-Sal shampoo are common recommendations).
- The latest psoriasis medications target more specific signaling molecules of the immune system called interleukins.