Psoriasis is a skin condition that creates red patches of skin with white, flaky scales. It most commonly occurs on the elbows, knees and trunk, but can appear anywhere on the body. The first episode usually strikes between the ages of 15 and 35. It is a chronic condition that will then cycle through flare-ups and remissions throughout the rest of the patient’s life. Psoriasis affects as many as 7.5 million people in the United States. About 20,000 children under age 10 have been diagnosed with psoriasis.
In normal skin, skin cells live for about 28 days and then are shed from the outermost layer of the skin. With psoriasis, the immune system sends a faulty signal which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. Skin cells mature in a matter of 3 to 6 days. The pace is so rapid that the body is unable to shed the dead cells, and patches of raised red skin covered by scaly, white flakes form on the skin.
Psoriasis is a genetic disease (it runs in families), but is not contagious. There is no known cure or method of prevention. Treatment aims to minimize the symptoms and speed healing.
Types of Psoriasis
There are five distinct types of psoriasis:
- Plaque Psoriasis (Psoriasis Vulgaris ) – About 80% of all psoriasis sufferers get this form of the disease. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. It classically appears as inflamed, red lesions covered by silvery-white scales.
- Guttate Psoriasis - This form of psoriasis appears as small red dot-like spots, usually on the trunk or limbs. It occurs most frequently among children and young adults. Guttate psoriasis comes on suddenly, often in response to some other health problem or environmental trigger, such as strep throat, tonsillitis, stress or injury to the skin.
- Inverse Psoriasis – This type of psoriasis appears as bright red lesions that are smooth and shiny. It is usually found in the armpits, groin, under the breasts and in skin folds around the genitals and buttocks.
- Pustular Psoriasis – Pustular psoriasis looks like white blisters filled with pus surrounded by red skin. It can appear in a limited area of the skin or all over the body. The pus is made up of white blood cells and is not infectious. Triggers for pustular psoriasis include overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, irritating topical treatments, stress, infections, and sudden withdrawal from systemic (treating the whole body) medications.
- Erythrodermic Psoriasis – One of the most inflamed forms of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis looks like fiery, red skin covering large areas of the body that shed in white sheets instead of flakes. This form of psoriasis is usually very itchy and may cause some pain. Triggers for erythrodermic psoriasis include severe sunburn, infection, pneumonia, medications or abrupt withdrawal of systemic psoriasis treatment.
People who have psoriasis are at greater risk for contracting other health problems, such as heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. It has also been linked to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, depression, obesity and other immune-related conditions.
Psoriasis triggers are specific to each person. Some common triggers include stress, injury to the skin, medication allergies, diet, and weather.
Psoriasis is classified as Severe when it covers more than 10% of the body. The severity impacts the treatments available.
Mild to Moderate Psoriasis - Mild to moderate psoriasis can generally be treated at home using a combination of over-the-counter medications, prescription topical treatments, and light therapy.
Moderate to Severe Psoriasis - Treatments for moderate to severe psoriasis can include prescription medications, biologics, and light therapy/phototherapy.
NBUVB and XTRAC Phototherapy for Psoriasis
Narrowband UVB - is a highly specific wavelength of light that treats skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, chronic itching, and others. Our providers recommend two to three treatments per week. Treatment is quick and painless.
XTRAC Laser - Unlike conventional light therapies, the XTRAC excimer laser delivers a highly targeted therapeutic beam of UVB light to areas of the skin affected by psoriasis without harming the surrounding skin so you can live clear and free.