Hyderabad: Psoriasis is often perceived to be a skin and cosmetic condition that is contagious in nature. However, this couldn’t be farther than the truth.
Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition and is not contagious. In psoriasis, new skin cells develop more rapidly than they normally do. Our body produces new skin cells that replace the older ones, in a cycle of every 10 to 30 days. New skin cells are formed every 3 to 4 days, not allowing the body enough time to shed the older ones. This leads to a build-up on the skin’s surface and appears dry, itchy and flaky with red patches or silvery scales.
Director of Anchala Skin Institute & Research Centre, Dr Anchala Parthasarathi, said, “Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease that affects not only the skin, but also nails and joints and other systems of the body. Contrary to popular belief, this condition doesn’t occur through infection and it is not contagious.
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown. However, it is a combination of immune, genetic and environmental factors that makes individuals susceptible to developing psoriasis. Occasionally, a skin biopsy or scraping may be taken to rule out other disorders appearing similar to psoriasis. Depending on the severity of Psoriasis and how much of the body’s surface it affects, there are a variety of treatment options available.”
While the condition is more common in adults, it may affect any age group, equally affecting men and women. Due to low awareness on the condition, many people neglect or pass off psoriasis as an ordinary skin rash or topical skin condition. Though there is no single cause for the condition, if you have a family member living with psoriasis, you might be at risk.
“Depending on the severity of psoriasis and how much of the body’s surface it affects, there are a variety of treatments available. While topical therapies and oral medications are beneficial, advanced treatment therapies, such as biologics, are recommended for moderate to severe psoriasis,” Dr Parthasarathi added.
However, psoriasis can also occur in people who do not have a family history of the condition. There are several other factors that could present a risk of psoriasis or trigger flare-ups of the condition:
- Stress: stress cannot cause psoriasis, but it can trigger flare-ups. However, it is also true that an existing case of psoriasis can cause stress to patients. As per the National Psoriasis Foundation’s (USA) mental health issue brief, psoriasis is independently related to stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, especially in women
- Obesity: Research suggests a link between obesity and psoriasis. People of excess weight might experience friction and sweating in deep skin folds leading to lesions. This could lead to or intensify psoriasis
- Skin injury: For those already living with psoriasis, skin injuries, such as cuts or grazes on the skin, can lead to flare-ups
- Smoking: As per a study, smoking almost doubles the risk of psoriasis. There is an increased risk of psoriasis as per the number of cigarettes smoked in a single day
- Alcohol consumption: Psoriasis patients are advised to avoid the consumption of alcohol, as it is known to increase symptoms
- Cold weather: As psoriasis patients already have dry skin, seasonal changes, such as winter, can cause excess dryness to the skin. The lack of moisture and hydration in the skin can trigger flare-ups
Though Psoriasis cannot be cured, there are various lifestyle modifications and effective treatments available to help improve the quality of life of the patients. Several lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy and balanced diet, avoiding smoking and alcohol, maintaining an active workout regimen, are beneficial.
Also, it is all the more important for people living with psoriasis to moisturize their skin properly and take a walk outside on sunny winter days to boost Vitamin D levels. So, the next time you have a skin rash, do not ignore it, please visit a dermatologist.