Psoriatic Diseases

What is psoriasis?

  • Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches on the skin. 
  • Psoriasis usually affects the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, however, it can appear anywhere on the body.

Facts about psoriatic diseases:

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriatic diseases. Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are chronic inflammatory immune diseases. 

  • Psoriasis is seen in all age groups, but mostly affects adults
  • Approximately 80% of those with psoriatic disease have mild to moderate symptoms
  • About 20% of people with psoriatic disease have moderate to severe symptoms
  • The most common form of the condition is plaque psoriasis
  • People with psoriatic disease are more likely to have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, two types of inflammatory bowel disease 

Who is at risk for psoriasis? 

Genetics and Triggers

  • Researchers believe about 10% of the population inherit one or more of the genes that could lead to psoriasis, but only about 2% to 3% of the population develop the disease. Scientists believe the reason is because the person with a genetic predisposition to psoriasis must be exposed to external factors known as “triggers” for the disease to become active. 
  • Psoriasis triggers are unique to the individual, but include stress, injury to the skin, infection and certain medications.  

Risk Factors

While anyone may develop psoriasis, the following factors can increase your risk of developing the disease:

  • Family history – Having a family member with psoriasis is the most significant risk factor for developing the disease.
  • Viral and bacterial infections –  People with HIV are more likely to develop psoriasis than those with a healthy immune system, as are children and young adults who experience recurring infections, such as strep throat
  • Stress – High stress level can impact your immune system and may increase your risk of psoriasis
  • Obesity – Excess weight may increase your risk of psoriasis. 
  • Smoking – Tobacco use increases your risk of developing the disease and may increase the severity psoriasis. 

How is psoriasis diagnosed? 

Although there are no blood tests or diagnostic tools to diagnose psoriasis, a dermatologist or other health care provider, such as your primary care physician can usually examine the affected skin and determine if it is psoriasis. Your healthcare provider may take a biopsy of the affected skin to examine microscopically to see if your skin looks thick and inflamed. Your doctor will also ask about your family history, since about one-third of people with psoriasis have a family member with the disease. 

How is psoriasis treated?

There are a number of treatments for psoriasis. Discuss your options with your doctor and decide which therapy is right for you. Some of these options include light therapy or topical solutions (creams, ointments, etc.), which are usually the prescribed in the early stages of the disease. 

Other treatments include:

Biologics – A biologic is a protein-based drug derived from living cells cultured in a laboratory. These drugs are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. Rather than impacting the entire immune system, like traditional systemic drugs, biologics are more targeted. Biologics used to treat psoriatic disease block the action of a specific type of immune cell called a T cell, or block proteins in the immune system, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin 17-A, or interleukins 12 and 23. These cells and proteins all play a major role in developing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Coping with symptoms and living with psoriatic diseases

That National Psoriasis Foundation has published several Fact Sheets on living with psoriatic disease about topics such as managing itch, triggers and the emotional aspects of the disease.