Psoriasis Made Simple

October 7, 2011
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Another dermatological term loosely thrown around is psoriasis. Let’s discuss in more detail what this term really means.

The cells in our skin are known as keratinocytes. These cells evolve from the basement part of our skin, but then proceed to migrate to our outer layers and die. This process allows for continuous renewal of our skin. Once a cell is “born,” it takes about 28 days or 4 weeks for it reach our skin’s surface and fall off.

Now, imagine instead of a month, this process took place in just 24 hours. Such is the case with psoriasis. Too many keratinocytes are produced in a very short amount of time. The outer cells are pushed out faster than they can fall off. This causes the skin to become very thick and elevated, especially on the elbows, knees, top of the feet, back, and scalp. The elevated plaques are salmon colored and become shiny, like the skin of a fish. Depending on circumstances, these plaques will go into remission but reoccur many times through a person’s life.

What causes psoriasis you ask? Psoriasis is usually something that runs in the family, and the first outbreak may be preceded by strep throat or a viral infection, or some other stressful event. However, the exact causes are until unclear. In more severe cases, psoriasis can spread into the joints and cause psoriatic arthritis.

How can you know if you have psoriasis? If you’ve ever cut yourself where the skin was previously normal, but afterward had an elevated plaque show up on that spot similar to the plaques you have on your elbows and tops of your feet, check with your doctor to rule out this condition.

Fortunately, psoriasis does not shorten a person’s lifespan or lead to skin cancer. Nonetheless, it can become a cosmetic nuisance depending on its location. Thankfully, there are many treatments available including UV light, topical corticosteroids, and special wound dressings that can keep outbreaks in check. More aggressive treatments are available if necessary. Your podiatrist can help manage psoriasis that presents on the feet and toes.

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