Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the U.S., affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells, resulting in painful red, scaly patches on the body that bleed and itch. Psoriasis frequently occurs with a range of other health concerns including diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and depression.

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious, multisystem, inflammatory disorder that can affect the skin, scalp, nails, and occasionally the joints. It is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.

What are the triggers for psoriasis?

Stress, injury to the skin, medications, and infections can all precede the onset of psoriasis or make it worse.

What is the prognosis for psoriasis?

Although psoriasis is usually benign, it is a lifelong illness with remissions and exacerbations and is sometimes refractory to treatment.

What is the link between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease?

A systematic review of 90 studies confirmed that patients with psoriasis had a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease but also a greater prevalence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, compared with controls. Those with more severe psoriasis, such as those requiring oral medications, had even higher risks.

  • Psoriasis is a systemic inflammatory disorder and it is believed that inflammation is involved in atherosclerosis, the etiology of cardiovascular disease.
  • Psoriasis and cardiovascular disease share common risk factors: obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

What can be done to help psoriasis?

Diet and Exercise: A high BMI (25 or higher) is associated with an increased incidence of psoriatic outbreaks, so this is another important reason to eat nutritiously, exercise, and maintain a healthy body weight. Alcohol and smoking can also make psoriasis worse, so it is important to reduce or eliminate these, especially during flares.

Stress plays a major role in the occurrence of psoriatic outbreaks, so it is especially important for those with psoriasis to keep stress it in check. Meditation, yoga, and acupuncture are all effective stress relievers.

Sunlight can be an effective treatment for psoriasis, because it contains ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which have been shown to suppress inflammation in the skin. To minimize harmful UV exposure, it is best to receive phototherapy (light) treatments in the safety of a doctor’s office.

What are the teatment options for psoriasis?

Management of psoriasis may involve medications, light therapy, stress reduction, and various adjuncts such as sunshine, moisturizers, and salicylic acid. Topical treatments include moisturizers, steroid creams, Vitamin D creams, and salicylic acid.

  • Light therapy treatments include narrowband UVB, PUVA, and the Excimer laser.
  • Oral medications that interact with the immune system and normalize the proliferation of skin cells.
  • Biologic medications that target specific areas of the immune system that are up-regulated in psoriasis.


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