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Dermatologist Scottsdale AZ
Scottsdale Dermatologist Dr. LaTowsky

Psoriasis


What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. Typically affecting the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, psoriasis can be itchy, burn, and sting and is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.
 
How do you get psoriasis?
While experts do not know what exactly causes psoriasis, we do know that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. The skin cells in people with psoriasis grow at an abnormally fast rate, which causes the build-up of psoriasis lesions. Psoriasis often develops between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can develop at any age. Psoriasis is not contagious, and usually, something triggers psoriasis to flare.
 
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
Most commonly, a diagnosis of psoriasis can be made after a full medical history and physical exam is performed by a dermatologist. Sometimes, a small sample of skin (biopsy) is taken and examined under a microscope to determine the exact type of psoriasis and rule out other disorders.

Are there several types of psoriasis?
There are five types of psoriasis.

  1. Plaque psoriasis: The most common form of psoriasis appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white build-up of dead skin cells. These patches or plaques are most common on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back, and are often itchy and painful, and crack and bleed.
  2. Guttate: The second most common form appears as small, dot-like lesions and often starts in childhood or young adulthood.  Guttate psoriasis can be triggered by a strep infection.
  3. Inverse: Appears as very red lesions in body folds, such as behind the knee, under the arm or in the groin and may appear smooth and shiny. Inverse psoriasis is often accompanied by another type of psoriasis elsewhere on the body.
  4. Pustular: Characterized by blisters of noninfectious pus (white pustules) surrounded by red skin. Not contagious or infectious, pustular psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, but occurs most often on the hands or feet.
  5. Erythrodermic: A particularly severe form of psoriasis that leads to widespread, fiery redness over most of the body; can cause severe itching and pain; and makes the skin come off in sheets. Occurring in three percent of people who have psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis.


What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, which may flare and subside, and many people with this condition are impacted by morning stiffness.  Roughly 11% of patients with psoriasis have also been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis.  However, approximately 30% of people with psoriasis will eventually develop psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis often may go undiagnosed, particularly in its milder forms. However, it's important to treat psoriatic arthritis early to help avoid permanent joint damage.
 
How is psoriasis treated?
Psoriasis can be treated many ways, and each patient responds differently. Treatment options include topical medications and systemic medications. Used alone, creams and ointments applied to the skin can effectively treat mild to moderate psoriasis. When the psoriasis is more severe, topical creams can be combined with oral or injected medications.

Topical psoriasis treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D analogues
  • Retinoids
  • Calcineurin inhibitors
  • Salicylic acid
  • Moisturizers


Oral and injectable medications include:

  • Retinoids
  • Methotrexate
  • Cyclosporine
  • Biologics such as etanercept (Enbrel®), infliximab (Remicade®), adalimumab (Humira®), ustekinumab (Stelara®)


Our goal is to help our patients understand and manage psoriasis with a customized treatment plan to minimize side effects.  If you or a loved one suffers from psoriasis, please schedule an appointment with one of our providers.

 
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