Psoriasis: Don't Just Survive With it, Thrive With It

A man uses a dot of lotion on his pointer finger and applies it to a scaly psoriasis patch on his elbow.

What is psoriasis?

It is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body attacks normal cells, a process which then triggers inflammation, thickening, and disruption of the skin that may appear as a variety of symptoms including patches of dry, scaly, red, blistered, itchy, cracking, bleeding, and painful skin. It affects adults and children, and can occur at any age, but is most often seen in patients 35 years old and under. Symptoms usually involve the knees, elbows, face, scalp, soles, and palms. Flare-ups can be few and far between, annoyingly often, or downright debilitating. But the good news is that psoriasis is exquisitely responsive to appropriate dermatologic diagnosis and treatment.

What causes psoriasis?

No one thing is known to cause psoriasis. Rather, extensive medical and dermatologic research has determined that psoriasis affects different people in different ways, is triggered by different things in different patients, and reacts to different medications at different points in the treatment process.

What causes psoriasis to flare up?

Psoriasis can lay dormant in someone’s genetic makeup for years before it is triggered by environmental factors.

Flare-ups can be caused by many things. It is important to know what triggers your skin to react to an outbreak. Note what you were doing, the medicine you've been taking (over-the-counter as well as prescription drugs), whether you ate a new food or were doing strenuous exercise.
The most commonly known trigger is weather—specifically those cold and dry winter days. Infections, such as those of the throat or skin, can act as triggers as well. Flare-ups can also be caused by injury to the skin, and even minor scrapes, cuts, burns (including sunburn), and bug bites qualify! Alcohol, tobacco, stress, and excessive sun exposure can also play a role. All of these can be triggers because they can weaken the immune system, which in turn allows psoriasis to spread. Be sure to share with your dermatologist the information you compile on the circumstances surrounding your flare-ups and the length of time it takes for them to improve or resolve.

What about remission?

Similar to psoriatic flare-ups, remission is individually driven. While there are several things patients can do to encourage remission, no single thing will help every patient all the time. Many find that one or a combination of the following guidelines are helpful in reducing the frequency and intensity of flare-ups which may, in turn, encourage remission: (1) Keep your skin well-hydrated and moisturized. Use a good-quality evaporator rather than a humidifier at home. Evaporators are incredibly effective in producing and circulating moisture-rich air drawn from a tank filled with cool water. Using a good quality moisturizing product is also essential. I like to recommend the Neutrogena skincare line which you can purchase either online or at your local store. (2) Do your best to avoid cold, dry, windy weather. If you must be outside on a wintery day, take precautions. Wear gloves, a scarf, a hat, and face covering. (3) Try to avoid cuts, bruises, and infection. Even a minor cut, a common cold, or sore throat may trigger a flare-up. (4) Limit alcohol consumption. While the connection between alcohol and psoriasis is still being investigated, it has been shown to worsen the condition in some patients, especially men.

Is psoriasis hereditary?

There is a definite connection between genetics and psoriasis. If one parent has the condition, the child will be at 10% higher risk. If both parents have psoriasis, the child is at a 50% greater risk for developing the disease, and it can lie dormant for years before suddenly erupting.

Is psoriasis contagious?

Absolutely not.

Are there different forms of the disease?

Yes, but the most common is plaque psoriasis which is characterized by red, raised, irritated patches of thickened skin usually covered by a whitish collection of dead cells. The skin may be painful and may burn, itch, feel tight, or tingle. Other forms include, but are not limited to, guttate psoriasis (tiny red spots on the skin); pustular psoriasis (small pus-filled blisters surrounded by red, irritated skin); psoriasis of the nails, which causes nails to become thickened, unsightly, and uncomfortable; and psoriatic arthritis which can cause painful swelling of joints.

How is psoriasis treated?

There are several different ways to tackle psoriasis and oftentimes dermatologists will implement multiple treatments simultaneously. The main goal of these treatments is to inhibit the growth of skin cells and to remove scaly patching.

Only your dermatologist can provide the right one for you based on his/her comprehensive examination and careful diagnosis. Common treatments include, but are not limited to topical application of ointments, creams, lotions, and shampoos including vitamin-based and steroid; oral and topical retinoids may also reduce symptoms; various forms of painless light and laser treatments are often used with great success; biologics administered by injection or intravenously are beneficial, as is salicylic acid. Your dermatologist will determine which of these or other treatments will benefit your skin the most.

Don't struggle with psoriasis for another day! Come in and see our highly-trained, board-certified dermatologists, many of whom specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psoriasis. Our offices provide the full range of medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology in a pleasant and patient-friendly environment. Locations are cleaned and sanitized daily. Our front desk staff is competent, cooperative, and here to help you. Wait time is kept to a minimum and our office hours are tailored to your convenience. The safest and most sophisticated equipment and treatment modalities are available on site. 

You Can Thrive Despite Psoriasis

Psoriasis does not have to control your life. Let SINY Dermatology's board-certified skin experts help you. Please use our website, sinyderm.com, or call us at 800-778-3090 to make an appointment at any of the SINY Dermatology locations listed below:

Brooklyn:

Queens:

Manhattan:

Long Island

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