What is it?
A long-term inflammatory skin disease, with red inflamed patches, known as ‘plaques’ that can come and go.
Who gets it?
It can start at any age, but most often at 15-25 years and 50-60 years.
What causes it?
It’s partly genetic, as a third of patients have family members with psoriasis. It’s also linked to abnormalities within the immune system. It can get worse as a result of streptococcal tonsillitis or other infections, skin injuries such as cuts and sunburn, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, stress, and some medications.
What are the symptoms?
Evenly distributed, red, scaly plaques with well-defined edges. Skin on any part of the body can be affected, but plaques commonly appear on the scalp, elbow and knees. The scale is silvery white, except in skin folds where plaques can be shiny, moist and peeling. Psoriasis can also cause toe and fingernail changes that look like fungal infection. Some patients report mild-to-severe itching, which can result in thickened skin, with painful cracks and fissures. When plaques clear up, they may leave brown or pale marks that take several months to fade.
What’s the best treatment?
Treatments should be tailored according to the areas involved. There are a number of topical creams and ointments that can help, including steroids. A course of phototherapy with UV light can be helpful and systemic therapy (tablets) and biologic therapy (injections) are available for severe cases.