What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a troubling condition that causes cells to reproduce rapidly on the surface of the skin. In many cases, it can become worse or better due to a variety of internal and external factors.
There are a number of different types of psoriasis, and each one may be treated differently to provide the best outcome for patients.
If you are troubled with psoriasis eruptions, you may wonder if this condition ever goes away on its own. The answer to that question is complicated and depends on a number of factors. Individuals with this condition can contribute to the success of their treatment by understanding the fundamental issues involved in this disease.
Psoriasis affects about 7 million individuals in the United States. It can occur in all age groups but tends to affect adults most often. The condition causes noticeable rashes on the scalp, hands, elbows, knees, or feet.
About 80 percent of those who are affected will only have mild to moderate symptoms. The other 20 percent may have moderate to severe problems.
Other health problems are often seen in individuals with psoriasis, such as type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, lymphoma and depression.
People with psoriasis are at higher risk for having inflammatory bowel conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Many individuals with psoriasis are smokers or consume alcohol.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but a number of treatments are available to reduce the symptoms.
What causes psoriasis?
The causes of psoriasis are not well understood. However, research indicates the condition is related to the immune system that normally fights disease in the body. The immune system becomes dysfunctional and begins to send out cells that attack healthy skin cells.
Studies indicate that living where the weather is cold can increase the risk for developing psoriasis.
A skin infection, sunburn, cut or bug bite can start reactions that trigger psoriasis.
Stress appears to be a factor in developing psoriasis, as well as smoking or consuming alcohol.
Even medications have been implicated in causing psoriasis, such as high blood pressure medications, iodide drugs and lithium used to treat bipolar disorders.
Having other people in your family who have psoriasis also increases your risk for the condition.
Symptoms of psoriasis
Psoriasis can manifest as a number of different skin problems. Areas of the body may develop a red rash with silvery scales. It may also appear as dry, cracked skin that bleeds. In children, it may be scaly areas on the body. There may be itching, soreness or a burning sensation.
It may occur in just a few spots or be widespread on the body. Other individuals may experience thickening, pitting or ridges on the nails. Some people experience joint pain with stiffness.
Psoriasis eruptions may have a cyclical pattern, worsening for a period of time and then improving for a period of time.
All of these symptoms can indicate an over-activity of the immune system associated with psoriasis.
Types of psoriasis
Medical experts have learned that psoriasis can occur in many different forms. Each type may require a different treatment approach.
In this form, the skin will develop red lesions called “plaques” that are raised, red in color and covered in silvery scales. The lesions may be painful or may itch. They can occur anywhere on the body, including the inside the mouth and the genitals. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis.
Guttate psoriasis generally affects children and young people. It is often triggered by a bacterial infection, such as strep throat. It appears as small, pinkish-red pimples trunk, upper arms, thighs or scalp.
Inverse psoriasis shows as a smooth, often shiny red rash with no scales. It is most often found in the folds of the armpits, groin, under the breasts or around the buttocks. Sweating and friction make this type of psoriasis worse. Yeast accumulation may trigger this form.
Pustular psoriasis is relatively uncommon, but it can become a serious medical problem. Usually occurring in adults, it causes pus-filled pimples on reddish skin. It may occur on the hands and feet. However, when the rash becomes more generalized, it should receive immediate medical attention.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is very uncommon, but it can signal a medical emergency. The individual may experience a fiery, red rash, with increased body temperature and rapid heart rate. If you have these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Nail changes are common in individuals with psoriasis. The nails may be pitted and discolored, with separation from the nail bed or chalky material under the nails. Nails may also be painful.
In this form of psoriasis, individuals may experience both skin symptoms and joint involvement, such as pain in the joints, swelling of the fingers and toes, as well as warmth in the joint that may also become discolored. Psoriatic arthritis may initiate after a number of years of skin eruptions.
How to treat psoriasis skin conditions
A variety of treatments are used to reduce the discomfort and bad appearance of skin eruptions caused by psoriasis. Topical treatments can be effective in treating mild to moderate symptoms of psoriasis.
Vitamin D analogues, topical retinoids, anthralin, salicylic acid and calcineurin are often prescribed to normalize skin cell growth.
Moisturizers are used to facilitate healing and improve skin texture.
If eruptions are severe, the physician may use drugs that suppress the immune system or those that reduce the growth of skin cells to allow the skin to begin to heal normally.
Light therapy can also be helpful in treating psoriasis, helping to reduce the scaling of skin and promote normal healing.
Treating arthritis in psoriatic arthritis
The development of arthritis as a result of psoriasis problems adds another dimension to the treatment of the disease. Individuals may experience severe pain and joint swelling that impacts their daily activities.
Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be recommended to manage discomfort and inflammation in the joints.
In addition, oral corticosteroid drugs or injections of these can help to reduce joint inflammation and pain.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, often called DMARDs, may be used to reduce the damage to joints that can occur from chronic inflammation. A special type of DMARD called “biologics” is also used to reduce inflammation at the cellular level and prevent joint damage. These drugs block proteins that initiate the inflammatory process. However, they must be used with care because they suppress the immune system and can raise the risk for infections.
The prognosis for individuals with psoriasis
Today’s patients who have psoriasis are fortunate because a variety of treatments are available. Although there is no definitive cure for the many forms of psoriasis, symptoms can be managed effectively, allowing individuals to avoid the inconvenience and embarrassment of frequent outbreaks of excessive skin cell growth.
Does psoriasis go away on its own?
The course of psoriasis can vary from one patient to another. In some cases, it is a long-term condition that must be treated throughout the individual’s life.
In other cases, psoriasis can go into remission, a state in which the symptoms disappear as the individual’s immune system normalizes and stops attacking its own body. When this occurs, the patient may experience no symptoms for many years.
However, the potential for a recurrence of the problem is always present. Many people go into remission for a long period of time. In some of these cases, the condition may recur at a later date.
Since individuals cannot depend on spontaneous remission, being under the care of a physician will help to ensure that mild to moderate cases can be managed before they become more troublesome.
If you are an individual suffering from symptoms and are wondering does psoriasis go away on its own, you should consult your physician for advice on treatments and lifestyle changes that can help your body restore normal immune system function and provide conditions for optimum healing.
With proper treatment, you can live a normal life without the embarrassment of skin eruptions that make you self-conscious about your appearance. Although it can’t be cured, psoriasis can be treated to allow you to live effectively even with the condition. Remission is possible, and you can help to set the stage for fewer symptoms and greater comfort with an effective treatment plan.
Other common psoriasis questions
Here are answers to some more questions that are often asked about psoriasis:
Is psoriasis contagious?
No, psoriasis is not contagious. It cannot be passed on and you cannot catch the disease by touching someone who has it.
What’s the difference between psoriasis and eczema?
Although both skin diseases, psoriasis and eczema are different. As described earlier, psoriasis is caused by the body’s immune system. Eczema can be caused by a number of different things including allergies, bacteria and a family history of the condition. You can read more about the difference between psoriasis and eczema here.
Is psoriasis hereditary?
Although genetic factors play a role in psoriasis and you’re more likely to suffer from it if there is a family history of it, it’s not definite it will be inherited. Indeed, less than half of cases involve a family history of the disease.
Is psoriasis an autoimmune disease?
Yes, as described earlier, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease which occurs when your body’s immune system attacks its own skin.
Does psoriasis spread?
Psoriasis may become worse over time and spread to other areas of your body. It’s not certain that this will happen and indeed, in some cases it may actually lessen over time.
Can psoriasis kill you?
Psoriasis itself will not kill you though there is some evidence that sufferers may die younger than non-sufferers. People with psoriasis often have a lower quality of life and become self-conscious of their appearance, which can lead to depression and thoughts of suicide.
Can psoriasis cause cancer?
We’ve looked at the causes and symptoms of psoriasis, as well as treatment options and we’ve answered the question, does psoriasis go away on its own: while some sufferers may go into remission for long periods, the potential for a recurrence is always there.