Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can result in multiple symptoms ranging from thickened, silvery plaques or small, red colored spots on the arms, legs, chest and back to red, scaly, shedding skin over the entire body. Despite its appearance, psoriasis is not contagious, although it is often believed to be so by those not affected by the condition.
Psoriasis is very difficult to treat and many people must go through several treatment methods before finding one that even slightly works to keep the condition under control. Some forms are milder than others and may not be as noticeable but there is currently no cure for any form of psoriasis. When psoriasis flares up, or for those with more severe forms, the stigma associated with the appearance of psoriasis lesions can cause mental and emotional stress for those dealing with this condition. Stress from living with visible lesions can lead to depression or social anxiety and also cause additional flare-ups.
There are several types of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis causes silvery whitish plaques of dead skin on top of red, inflamed and thickened lesions, mainly on the scalp, elbows, knees and back. The guttate form of psoriasis can develop in response to infection or fever. Symptoms include small red spots on the abdomen, chest, back, arms and legs. Inverse psoriasis causes red, sometimes shiny, lesions in folds of the body such as the armpits, groin area and under the breasts. Pustular psoriasis causes reddened skin with white blisters. Erythrodermic psoriasis causes severe red, itchy, painful and scaling lesions on large areas of the body. No form of psoriasis is contagious.
There is no cure for psoriasis. Keep your skin soft and moist by using hypoallergenic moisturizing creams, since dry skin can be irritated and make lesions worse. Talk to your doctor about your need for topical or oral medications, including steroids to reduce inflammation as well as vitamin D to reduce skin cell proliferation. Since many of those with psoriasis are deficient in nutrients such as vitamin A and zinc, be sure to take a multivitamin-mineral supplement daily.
Gluten -- the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some other grains -- may contribute to psoriasis development and flare-ups. About 15 percent of those with psoriasis have antibodies to gluten in their blood, the same antibodies found in those with celiac disease -- an intolerance to gluten. Ask your doctor to test you for celiac disease. If you do have celiac, eating a gluten-free diet may also help to keep your psoriasis under control.
Up to 30 percent of those with psoriasis can also develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis symptoms can be mild, with some joint pain and swelling, or be very painful with progressive joint damage and deformity. It is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of joint pain, swelling, warmth or redness since early treatment can help to slow the disease and prevent further joint damage
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