4 little-known psoriasis facts

Psoriasis is a fairly common condition - it is thought that around one in 50 people in the UK have it. Many people know someone with the condition, or have become aware of it due to media coverage of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne, or, for a more mature generation, Dennis Potter. However, in the experience of the Psoriasis Association, many people don't truly understand the complex nature of psoriasis and its associated conditions. To mark Psoriasis Awareness Week, here are a few facts to get you up to speed:

  • Psoriasis is not just a skin condition. Faulty signalling processes in the immune systems of people with psoriasis causes them to over-act and produce increased amounts of inflammation, almost as if always fighting an infection or wound. This over-activity causes skin cells to multiply at a much faster rate than normal, which is what we see on the surface of the skin.
  • There are various types of psoriasis, and they can all look different. Chronic plaque psoriasis, which is the most common type, is characterised by well-demarcated, raised patches that are pink, red or purple in colour, and often are covered by a build-up of white flakes or crust. It is common to have these 'plaques' on knees, elbows, scalp and lower back, although psoriasis can appear almost anywhere. It may look red and shiny in skin folds and sensitive areas.
  • Psoriasis is not curable, but it is treatable. There are a wide variety of treatments available, from topical (applied to skin) creams and ointments, to ultraviolet light therapy, to medicines that are taken as tablets or injections. It can be a process of trial and error to find the right treatment for each individual, and not all treatments are suitable for everybody, but it is important to remember that most people's psoriasis can be managed and improved. Recent research has shown that certain lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight could also improve psoriasis in some cases, and may also help some treatments to work better.
  • Psoriasis is associated with a type of arthritis - psoriatic arthritis (PsA). It is thought that around a fifth of people with psoriasis will develop this condition, often within the first ten years of psoriasis symptoms. This affects joints and areas where tendons join to bone such as the heels and lower back. The main PsA symptoms include swollen, stiff and tender joints; pain and stiffness that is worse in the morning or with rest; swollen, sausage-like fingers or toes, and nail changes. PsA is manageable and can have a good outlook, providing it is diagnosed early and treated effectively. If left untreated, PsA can cause permanent damage to joints.

This is just a brief overview, but there is plenty of information about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis available at the Psoriasis Association website.

Psoriasis Awareness Week runs from 1st to the 8th November 2015, and this year focuses on raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis .