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Psoriasis is a chronic, genetic, noncontagious skin disorder that appears in many different forms and can affect any part of the body, including the nails and scalp. Psoriasis is categorized as mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the percentage of body surface involved and the impact on the patient's quality of life (QoL). Psoriasis may be one of several types: plaque psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, guttate psoriasis or inverse psoriasis. A dermatologist can help you to determine what type of psoriasis you may have.

Treatment

Because psoriasis is a chronic skin condition, it requires long-term treatment for each flare-up. While psoriasis is not curable, it is treatable. Successful treatment usually provides significant temporary relief and sometimes clearing of the plaques entirely.

Who gets psoriasis?

Psoriasis occurs in both children and adults and may appear at any age, although it is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. Both men and women of any race may be affected.

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What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, researchers suspect that whether a person develops psoriasis or not may depend on a "trigger." Possible psoriasis triggers include emotional stress, skin injury, systemic infections, and certain medications. Studies have also indicated that a person is born genetically predisposed to psoriasis, and multiple genes have been discovered over the past 5 years confirming this fact. Even so, not everyone with psoriasis will

What treatment are available?

Treatments for psoriasis are topical (applied to the skin), systemic (taken internally), or a form of phototherapy (ultraviolet light applied to the skin). The most effective treatments are those prescribed by the physician and not available without a prescription. One treatment that is often effective, and is available without prescription and without cost, is sunlight. However, a dermatologist should recommend the safe and effective use of sunlight for the individual patient.

Topical agents include:

  • Anthralin
  • Coal tar
  • Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives)
  • Vitamin D derivatives
  • Steroids

Systemic agents include:

  • Antimetabolite drugs (methotrexate)
  • Immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory drugs (cyclosporin, tacrolimus)
  • Systemic retinoids—acitretin, isotretinoin

Phototherapy includes:

  • Sunlight
  • Photochemotherapy—PUVA
  • Phototherapy—ultraviolet light

What effect does the sun have on psoriasis?

Natural sunlight can have a positive effect on psoriasis. The long-known benefits of sunlight provided the basis for the development of ultraviolet light therapy for treating psoriasis and other skin diseases. However, you should never get enough sun exposure to turn your skin red or cause a sunburn, which can actually cause psoriasis to flare-up and worsen.

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