It’s easy to think of psoriasis as just a “skin condition.” But psoriasis actually starts underneath the skin. It is a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system that can range from mild to severe.
The condition causes red and crusty patches with silvery scales to flare-up on the skin.
They normally appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back, but can crop up anywhere on the body. The patches can sometimes be itchy or sore.
What causes psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, but scientists believe psoriasis is the result of several factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and the immune system.
Sometimes the immune system mistakes your body’s healthy cells for intruders and attacks them. When you have psoriasis, your immune system is overactive. This creates inflammation inside the body, which is a cause of the symptoms you see on the skin. More healthy cells are produced than normal. Those excess cells get pushed to the surface of your skin too quickly. Your body simply can’t shed skin cells that quickly, so the cells build up on the surface of your skin. The thick, red patches you see on your skin (called plaques) are actually a buildup of excess skin cells.
The Genetic Link
If you have psoriasis, it’s possible that someone in your family may have had it too. That’s because there appears to be a genetic link for psoriasis.
One out of three people with psoriasis reports having a relative with the disease. And researchers say that up to 10% of the general population may inherit one or more genes that predispose them to psoriasis, though only 2% to 3% of people with the gene actually develop the disease.
There are quite a few possible triggers, and not everyone will be susceptible to each.
Some triggers known to impact psoriasis symptoms include:
Stress: emotional and psychological stress can incite a flare or make your current symptoms worse.
Injury: Sometimes a trauma to the skin can cause a psoriasis plaque to form. This effect is called the Keobner phenomenon, and it can follow even a relatively mild injury, like a sunburn, cuts, scrapes, bug bites or even vaccination.
Psoriasis Is NOT Contagious
One of the greatest misconceptions about psoriasis is that one person can “catch it” from another. That is absolutely a myth!
Psoriasis is a disease of the immune system and is not something you can catch. It’s good to know the facts about psoriasis and to be prepared for the questions you’ll get from others.