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Medical Dermatology


What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease in which areas on the skin grow much faster than normal. The affected areas become inflamed and produce red, thickened areas with silver scales. It is most commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. Psoriasis can also affect the nails, causing them to thicken or become loose. A condition called inverse psoriasis affects areas such as the armpit, under the breast, around the groin, buttocks and genitals. This disease cannot be passed from person to person.

What is the cause of psoriasis?

The cause of psoriasis is unknown. There is some indication that the underlying factor may have to do with an abnormality in function of key white blood cells causing inflammation of the skin.

In some cases, it is activated by certain medications, stress and infections. It often becomes more pronounced in the wintertime as a result of dry skin.

What is the treatment for psoriasis?

The methods of treating this condition vary, depending on the severity of the disease, as well as, the age and health of the patient. The goal of treatment for this disease is to reduce inflammation, slow rapid cell growth, and control itching. Some common treatment approaches include:

  • Cortisone creams and ointments
  • Scalp treatment using specific shampoos, oils and solutions usually containing coal tar
  • Topical vitamin D in prescription form
  • Vitamin A (Tazorac)
  • Salicylic acid
  • Light therapy, both sunlight and ultraviolet
  • PUVA, a special form of ultraviolet light
  • Oral methotrexate and cyclosporine
  • Topical and oral retinoids (prescribed vitamin A related drugs)
  • Biologic agents such as Enbrel, Humira and Stelara

Tips for psoriasis patients:

  • Diet has not been found to be an effective tool in controlling this condition.
  • All methods of treatment must be conducted under the careful direction of your dermatologist.
  • Harsh shampooing and scratching of the scalp must be avoided.
  • Vitamin D found in a drugstore or health food store is of no value in treatment.
  • Self-treatment with natural or artificial sunlight should not be used.

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