Psoriasis affects around 2% of people in the UK. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but experts say that a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors contribute to the development of the disease.
The symptoms of psoriasis
Psoriasis happens when the body’s immune system, which normal helps the body fight infection, causes inflammation in the skin. This triggers new skin cells to develop too quickly.
Normally, skin cells, called keratinocytes, are replaced about once a month. When a person has psoriasis, new cells grow and move to the surface of the skin every three to four days. The build-up of old cells creates the characteristic silver scales and raised plaques of psoriasis on the skin.
The symptoms of psoriasis may wax and wane. No one knows what causes psoriasis flare-ups, but they can be triggered by a number of factors including skin infections such as streptococcal tonsillitis, injuries to the skin (for example, cuts, scrapes or surgery), stress and some medicines.
Treatments vary depending on the individual
The good news is that there are effective treatments available to help manage psoriasis, as the University of Manchester’s Professor Chris Griffiths, a spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation explains. “How psoriasis is treated depends on the extent of the disease and how it affects the individual.
“The treatments vary from topical creams and ointments through to light therapy (using special types of ultraviolet light), medicines such as methotrexate, and the new injectable drugs which are highly effective for severe disease.” These newer drugs work by targeting and blocking the overactive immune system cells that cause psoriasis.
As well as the physical effects, psoriasis can have a severe impact on a person’s quality of life, which can lead to stigmatisation, anxiety and depression.
“Psoriasis can very severely affect someone’s life, Professor Griffiths says. “It can be life-ruining, so there’s a need for people living with psoriasis and their doctors to manage it as more than a simple skin disease.
“It’s important to manage the whole patient, because psoriasis can be associated with other illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and being overweight.”
Psoriasis can have huge impact on your quality of life
How well you are coping with your psoriasis, and the impact it may be having on your daily life, can be measured using the Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) questionnaire. A score between 0 and 30 is calculated, with anything over 10 being classed as having a severe impact on your quality of life.