What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic (ongoing and often recurring) autoimmune disease characterized by patches of red and usually scaly skin.

An autoimmune disease is a disease that affects your body’s immune system. In the case of psoriasis, your immune system is sending out messages for your body to make new skin cells faster than you actually need them.

It can affect any part of the body, but usually occurs on the scalp, elbows, knees, lower back and genitals, often in the same place on both sides of the body. It can also affect the fingernails or toenails.

Psoriasis affects about one million Canadians with varying severity.

When Do Patients Get Psoriasis?

Most people with psoriasis develop it in early adulthood, but it may develop at any age. Psoriasis affects both males and females at about the same rate. It can heal temporarily but will come back throughout a person’s life. While it is not contagious people with psoriasis may suffer discomfort, including pain, itching and emotional distress.

Plaque of Psoriasis
Plaque of Psoriasis

Why Me?

The exact cause of psoriasis is not known, but research points to a disorder in the body’s immune system, the system that protects one’s body from infection, being involved.

In people with psoriasis, the immune system malfunctions, causing skin cells to reproduce faster than normal. The skin cells grow too quickly, without a normal time period to shed, and build up to form plaques.

While a normal skin cell grows to maturity in 28 – 30 days and then sheds from the skin’s surface, a psoriatic skin cell takes only 3-4 days to mature. Genetics, your environment and stress levels can all play role in the psoriasis symptoms you experience.

What Are Common Symptoms of Psoriasis?

  • Dry and cracked skin
  • Flaking
  • Itching
  • Skin swelling
  • Skin pain
  • Pitted, cracked, crumbly or loose nails