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Understanding Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a condition that affects up to 2.2 percent of the population. It can cause disorder of the skin surface on any part of the body, including the arms, legs, trunk, nails and neck. Scalp psoriasis can also occur. It tends to appear between the ages of 15 and 25, but can develop at any time of life. This disorder is thought to be caused by a malfunction of the autoimmune system, which begins to attack the body’s own skin cells. Untreated, psoriasis can become a chronic problem with significant repercussions. Up to 30 percent of those with the disease also develop an arthritis-related condition. The unsightly patches can cause both physical and social discomfort. Psoriasis can run in families, and so a genetic vulnerability is suspected. A number of treatments are available to relieve the symptoms of this disease.

A number of different types of this condition are recognized. These present different visual appearances, which helps physicians to diagnose the condition accurately. The plaque type starts in a small area and can grow larger and thicker over a period of time. If scraped, the plaque will bleed in small spots known as Auspitz sign. The guttate form creates patches of salmon-colored pustules that later form a fine-textured scale. It usually occurs after a bacterial or viral infection that triggers the immune system. It ca appear on the limbs or on the scalp.
The inverse form produces inflamed areas that are smooth in texture. It generally occurs in the folds of the skin in the armpits, groin or under the breasts. The seborrheic form looks like scaly, red areas on the scalp or other areas of the body .The pustular form appears as blisters that are filled with fluid, which burst and dry out to a brown color. It generally appears on the hands and feet. Psoriatic arthritis causes pustules, pain in the joints and acne. It can eventually cause destruction of the joint structures.

Patients may experience scaling of the skin, redness, any of the above described skin eruptions, cracking, itching, burning and sometimes thickened nails. Joint stiffness and inflammation may also accompany this condition. Scalp psoriasis may have a powdery or silvery appearance. Symptoms of scalp psoriasis can be either very mild or severe. In the most severe cases, crusted areas of plaque can cover the scalp, moving into the hairline and onto the ears and neck.

Topical steroid medications are the standard treatment for this disease. These reduce the inflammation and itching that is commonly experienced. Synthetic forms of vitamin D slow the excessive growth of skin cells. Topical retinoid medications, a vitamin A compound, decreases inflammation by reducing DNA activity in the skin. Another type of drug called a calcineurin inhibitor is used to stop the T-cell activity that causes inflammation. Salicylic acid compounds and coal tars have been used for many years to treat psoriasis. Topical creams are used to moisturize the affected area. Oral immunosuppressant drugs may also be prescribed.

Treating Scalp Psoriasis
Scalp psoriasis can be particularly resistant to treatment. Various treatments may be rotated as the condition becomes resistant to one type of medication. Generally, this type responds well to tar and salicylic acid medications. Anthalin, Taclonex and Tazorac are also helpful. Methotrexate and other systemic drugs help to relieve the condition. Light therapy in the form of UV combs can also treat the condition.

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