An introduction to psoriasis
Psoriasis is a chronic but non-contagious skin condition that is estimated to affect approximately 2% of the UK population, normally appearing in those under the age of 30.1
The severity of psoriasis symptoms can vary from person to person, with some cases being very mild whilst others range from moderate to serious. However, severe psoriasis symptoms usually only occur in 5% of sufferers, making them unlikely and uncommon.2
The condition is believed to be connected to the immune system and can even be classified as an autoimmune disease, where the body releases inflammatory chemicals to attack its own cells, mistaking them for foreign pathogens.
When this happens, it can lead to a rapid overproduction of skin cells, which are not shed but instead linger on the surface of the skin, giving rise to the characteristic symptoms of psoriasis.
There are 10 known subtypes of Psoriasis:
- Chronic plaque psoriasis
- Guttate psoriasis
- Scalp psoriasis
- Flexural psoriasis
- Napkin psoriasis
- Palmar plantar pustular psoriasis
- Generalised pustular psoriasis
- Erythrodermic psoriasis
- Nail psoriasis
- Psoriasis arthritis
In this hub, we shall be discuss all of these variants in order to give you a fuller picture of the psoriasis condition and to make you aware of the associated triggers and symptoms so that you can take preventative steps to limit the unpleasant effects of psoriasis and avoid any potential flare-ups.
The relationship between psoriasis and your immune system is intricate, as the two are closely interlinked. The immune system is responsible for guarding your body against infections and pathogens.
When a virus enters your body, your immune system will release a wave of inflammatory chemicals, sending immune cells and white-blood cells to the affected area in order to repair any damage and destroy the invading virus.
Nevertheless, if your immune system is over-excited it can result in the release of more inflammatory chemicals. This can make your immune cells overzealous in identifying pathogens and infections, and will eventually irritate your skin, potentially causing an episode of psoriasis.
In most cases, however, psoriasis outbreaks are usually stimulated by a type of white blood cells known as T-lymphocytes or T-cells.
T-cells are responsible for policing your immune system and identifying potential antigens. They can also emit proteins called cytokines, which can increase inflammation. In the case of psoriasis, your T-cells start to attack healthy skin cells and trigger an inflammatory response, which is then heightened by the secretion of cytokines.3
The rush of inflammatory chemicals and white blood cells can increase the production of skin cells and T-cells, triggering your psoriasis symptoms.
What causes the T-Cells to attack your skin cells is unknown although many believe that your genes may play a role in the behaviour of your immune system.
Your genes are responsible for everything that happens in your body, from your immune function to your hair colour, and it is estimated that there are 25 different types of genes that can make you more vulnerable to psoriasis.4
There is some evidence to suggest that some of these genes belong to the ‘interleukins’ family. Interleukins are linked to your immune system and can help to identify pathogens, transmitting their location to other immune cells.
In psoriasis, it is believed that there are too many interleukin genes present on your skin, which can fool your immune system into thinking that you’ve been infected, triggering an autoimmune response that can inspire psoriasis symptoms to manifest.5
The causes of psoriasis
The role of your genetics and your immune system has been explored but there are a number of other factors that can contribute to an outbreak of psoriasis. Your immune system can be influenced by certain aspects of your life, from your diet to your stress levels.
In some cases, it might also be worthwhile taking a look at other areas of your body, such as your liver function as well, in order to assess how that organ can impact your psoriasis symptoms. If you want to learn more about these triggers, please take a look at our causes page.
The symptoms of psoriasis
The symptoms of psoriasis are well-known, and the most infamous of them all is the notorious itch that can accompany the condition.
Although the intensity of your symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of your psoriasis episode, there are a few main symptoms that can be recognised across all the different subtypes of the affliction.
If you want to learn more about the symptoms of psoriasis, please visit our symptoms page for further information.
The treatment of psoriasis
Psoriasis is sometimes considered to be a difficult skin condition to treat as there are so many different factors to consider.
Nevertheless, over the years, the condition has been linked to stress levels and lifestyle habits like your diet or certain addictions, including smoking and alcohol consumption. These issues can be eased and resolved by taking practical steps to eliminate any potential irritants from your day to day routine.
There are also a variety of herbal and natural solutions that are also thought to be of great benefit to psoriasis sufferers. If you want to learn more about these remedies, please review our treatments page.