What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common inflammatory condition of the skin affecting about 2% of the population. It can appear at any age and it often comes and goes for reasons that aren’t well understood. Redness, scaling and thickening of the skin are common manifestations of psoriasis. Any part of the skin can be affected as well as the nails and, less commonly, joints.
Psoriasis is not infectious and doesn’t cause scarring although it can cause increased or reduced pigmentation of the skin that fades after some time.
Alcohol, smoking, infections and stress have been shown to cause flares of psoriasis.
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
Psoriasis causes fairly characteristic plaques that can be visually recognised by a dermatologist based on their appearance and distribution across the skin.
If it affects the joints, a rheumatologist will often diagnose it instead. However, a dermatologist will often screen for joint symptoms too.
How is psoriasis treated?
There is no cure for psoriasis but several effective treatments exist. The severity of psoriasis dictates which forms of treatment are used.
In mild psoriasis, topical treatments may suffice. Examples include: emollients (moisturisers), steroids, tar and vitamin D analogues.
In moderate or severe psoriasis, tablets (such as acitrenin or methotrexate) or injections (biological agents) may be indicated. Phototherapy using ultraviolet light is also often used.