Psoriasis is a skin condition that can display a number of different forms. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form. It produces red, scaled and thickened areas of the skin, called plaques, that are usually found on the scalp, elbows or knees. A number of treatments are available to soothe areas and reduce discomfort. The disorder affects about 7.5 million people in the United States.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes overgrowth of skin cells. The immune system sends out antibodies to protect the skin from what it mistakenly believes is a threat, causing the excessive growth of cells. If you have a relative that acquired the condition, there is a higher risk of your having it as well. Some researchers believe that injury to the skin or an infection can trigger the onset of psoriasis symptoms.
Plaque psoriasis is characterized by reddened, raised lesions of the skin that develop silvery scales on the surface. The circular or oval-shaped lesions can develop on any part of the body, but are common in some areas. The patches can cause severe itching. The skin can appear thickened in affected areas.
The physician determines the severity of the disorder by the amount of skin surface that is affected and whether it affects normal, daily activities. Though there is no specific test for this condition, the physician will be able to diagnosis it through a biopsy of the skin cells, medical history and visual inspection of the affected area.
Many people who have this condition often use a variety of treatments. A particular therapy may work for a time and then become ineffective. Another treatment is then used which may help the condition for period of time. Fortunately, a number of different methods of treatment have been developed to help relieve symptoms and improve the appearance of the skin.
Emollient creams and gels can be rubbed onto the surface of the skin to relieve itching and soften the plaques. Cortisone cream is often used for this purpose. However, long-term use of prescription strength cortisone cream can have undesirable effects on skin. Vitamin D cream and vitamin A creams are also used. Coat tar derivative compounds have been used for decades to relieve psoriasis symptoms. Anthralin is a synthetic compound that is also used for relieving plaque psoriasis.
Exposed the affected areas to UV light can help to relieve the symptoms of plague psoriasis. A number of different types of light sources are used for this purpose. Sometimes, the light therapy is combined with medications to increase the healing effect.
Because psoriasis is caused by a reaction from the immune system, immunosuppressant medications can help to limit the symptoms. Cyclosporine and methotrextate are commonly used for this purpose. Systemic retinoid compounds that are related to vitamin A can also be used to suppress psoriatic reactions of the skin.
Biologics are a new class of drug that is infused into the body in an intravenous fluid. Direct injections may also be done. They are generally used for patients with moderate to severe psoriasis. These drugs work by binding to a compound called tumor necrosis factor-alpha, or TNF-alpha. The overproduction of this biological compound is the source of the symptoms of the disorder.
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