What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. On World Psoriasis Day, read on to know the causes and triggers of the same

By Zoha Tapia

Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white scaly patches.

Causes of psoriasis
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it is believed that a combination of several factors contributes to the development of this disease.

  • Genetics: Several gene mutations are involved in causing psoriasis. “One of these mutations on chromosome 6, called PSORS-1, appears to be a major factor that can lead to psoriasis. Mutations on genes cause certain cells to function differently. One out of 10 people have genes that make them more likely to get psoriasis. But most people with psoriasis don't report having a relative with the disease,” informs Dr Apratim Goel, dermatologist and director, Goel’s Cutis Skin Studio. So while there are clearly genetic connections, they're not exactly clear-cut.

  • Immune system: In a normally functioning immune system, white blood cells produce antibodies to foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. These WBC also produce chemicals that aid in healing and fighting infective agents. But with psoriasis, special white blood cells called T-cells become overactive. “These T-cells attack the skin and set off a cascade of events that make the skin cells multiply so fast they start to stack up on the surface of the skin. Normal skin cells form, mature and are sloughed off every 30 days but in psoriasis this happens in 6-7 days,” says Dr Goel.

  • Other factors: Factors like environment, weather, stress, medications, other diseases, smoking, heavy use of alcohol, nutritional deficiencies etc also play a role.

Triggers of Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a complicated disease which can have many triggers and aggravating factors. The common triggers are:

  • Genetic mutation: Mostly  it runs in families. 25-30% patients have their first relatives (parents and siblings) affected by some form of psoriasis.
  • Skin Injury: Psoriasis can occur on the site of a skin injury.
  • Weather: Usually hot weather (sun exposure) improves and cold climate worsens psoriasis.
  • Stress: Psychological stress tends to aggravate and flare up skin lesions
  • Infections: Bacterial and viral infections of skin as well as respiratory system can flare up psoriatic lesions on skin. In children this is called guttate psoriasis
  • Deficiencies: Usually EFA (essential fatty acid) as well as Vitamin D deficiency has been reported to flare psoriasis in some cases
  • Drugs and medications: Certain medications like antihypertensive and pain killers can flare up psoriasis

Is it contagious?
Psoriasis is not contagious and not infectious. Dr Goel says, “It is proven that psoriasis cannot be transmitted in any way, except for genetics. It is impossible to get infected by psoriasis through neither type of transmission, including direct or indirect transmission, air-borne transmission, through sex, kissing, a handshake, insects, etc.”

Picture credit: Mysiana

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