Description of Psoriasis & Scalp Psoriasis
The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood and are the subject of
ongoing research. In psoriasis, the immune system is mistakenly activated, which
leads to overproduction of skin cells. Skin cells build up too rapidly on the surface
of the skin, forming raised, red, scaly patches (called plaques). These plaques
are often itchy and sometimes painful.
Some people are not very affected by their psoriasis symptoms, but for others, psoriasis
is a disabling and embarrassing condition that affects their lifestyle and their
interactions with others. There are many available treatments that may help to relieve
symptoms and improve daily life. In addition, psoriasis may occur in more than one part of the body. You should examine your elbows, knees, torso and fingers for symptoms of psoriasis. If you have scalp psoriasis these other areas may be similarly affected. If you’re not sure whether patches on your skin are psoriasis or not, talk to your healthcare professional.
Symptoms of Psoriasis & Scalp Psoriasis
These can vary from person to person and may include one or more of the following features:
- Thick, red patches of skin (plaques) variable in size covered with silvery scales. In scalp psoriasis these form on the scalp and around the hairline
- Nail psoriasis and arthritis may also be present
What is the difference between scalp psoriasis and dandruff?
Dandruff and scalp psoriasis can be sometimes difficult to distinguish. Both are common conditions that affect the scalp and they may share similar symptoms (e.g. itch, redness and scaling). The following table may help you to distinguish between these two conditions by visually examining your and dandruff. However, telling the difference can be difficult. If you’re in doubt about whether your dandruff may indicate scalp psoriasis scaling, talk to your healthcare professional.
Scalp psoriasis dander
- Yellowy or whitish
- Powdery, like flour
The severity of psoriasis can range from a few spots of scaling in only certain parts of the body to major eruptions that cover large areas and are difficult to treat. Mild cases may be regarded as a nuisance, but more severe cases can be painful, disfiguring and disabling. Roughly 20% of psoriasis case are moderate to severe.The severity of scalp psoriasis can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas and are difficult to treat. Scalp psoriasis can also extend beyond the hairline onto the forehead, the back of the neck and around the ears. Persistent scalp lesions can eventually lead to thinning hair or even hair loss. Regardless of the severity, psoriasis can impact a person’s quality of life.
IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT PSORIASIS
- Psoriasis is not contagious.
- Sufferers develop psoriasis
between the ages of 15-20 years or later between 50-60 years. Around 75% of patients
are affected before the age of 40.
- Psoriasis varies from person
to person in severity, in clinical presentation and how it responds to treatments.
- The scalp and limbs are
the most common places where psoriasis appears, but it can occur anywhere on the
body, especially the knees, elbows and trunk.
No special blood tests or diagnostic tools exist to diagnose psoriasis. A dermatologist
or other healthcare professional diagnose psoriasis from the signs and symptoms by
examining the entire skin surface. Sometimes a skin biopsy is taken and examined under
the microscope to help differentiate between psoriasis and other disorders.
Quality of Life
Psoriasis has important consequences, both physical and emotional. Studies have
shown that people with psoriasis have a lower quality of life and lower self-esteem
than people who do not have the disorder. The physical impacts of psoriasis include
irritation, pain or burning sensations. The emotional impacts include an increased
chance of depression and impaired coping skills. People with psoriasis can feel
stigmatised which may result in avoidance of social settings and increased isolation.
Causes, Triggers and Risk Factors
The causes of psoriasis are not fully understood today. The current consensus from healthcare professionals is
that the immune system, genetics and the environment (e.g. stress, cold weather,
etc.) all play major roles in the development of psoriasis. As a result there is skin inflammation accompanied by overproduction of skin cells.
Cells in the upper skin layer normally mature and are shed from the skin’s
surface every 28 to 30 days. With psoriasis, the cells can mature in 3 to 6 days
then move to the skin surface and pile up.
Research suggests that both genetic and environmental factors play a role in causing
T cells (white blood cells) to malfunction. In psoriasis it is thought that T cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake, as if to heal a wound or to fight an infection.
- Scientists believe that
at least 10% of the general population inherits one or more of the genes that create
a predisposition to psoriasis
- However, only 2-3% of
the population develops the disease
Researchers believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, the individual must
have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific
external factors known as “triggers.”