Updated 2 September 2022 | Approved By Dr. Umberto Russo
What is Psoriasis?Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition caused by problems with your immune system. Those living with psoriasis commonly report a build-up of itchy and scaly skin rashes. However, psoriasis is a chronic condition that can also affect the other areas of the body, including the kidneys, cardiovascular system and mental health. According to a study from the British Medical Journal, around 2% of the Australian population (approximately 500000 people) live with psoriasis . Psoriasis can occur at any age, typically in those younger than 35 but less likely in childhood. Those living with this condition can experience different types and severity of psoriasis. There are various patterns of psoriasis that Australians can experience. Always consult a GP for appropriate testing, diagnosis and treatment. Common patterns of psoriasis include:
- Chronic plaque psoriasis
- Guttate psoriasis
- Pustular psoriasis
- Scalp psoriasis
- Nail psoriasis
Psoriasis SymptomsSymptoms of psoriasis will vary from person to person. The most common symptoms include red, scaly and thickened areas on the skin. Common locations include:
- The scalp
- Around the tailbone region
Psoriasis CausesCurrently, more research is needed to understand exactly why psoriasis occurs. What is known is that people with psoriasis have problems with their immune systems. The immune system is the body's defence against disease and infection. However, the immune system begins to attack the healthy tissue around the body instead, such as the skin. Those with families living with psoriasis are more likely to be diagnosed with it. After psoriasis appears, it can have periods where the symptoms become more severe and obvious (e.g. more rashes, increased itchiness, etc.). There are specific triggers which can cause this, such as :
- Alcohol consumption
- Being overweight and/or obese
- Low calcium levels in the bloodstream
- Certain medications
- Change in weather (especially during winter)
- Cuts and injuries to the skin
Is Psoriasis Contagious?Psoriasis is not contagious. However, there are skin conditions that look like psoriasis that may be contagious, such as scabies and cellulitis. Always consult a doctor about your symptoms.
Tests and DiagnosisA qualified medical doctor and specialists should only diagnose psoriasis. During your consultation with a doctor, they will view your symptoms (e.g. changes on your skin) and ask related questions. Below are some tests that your doctor may require.
Physical AssessmentA physical assessment will be performed, especially along the skin. They will use specific screening criteria and their clinical experience to help diagnose psoriasis. Factors that the doctor will take into consideration before making a diagnosis includes :
- The severity of the symptoms
- How much of the skin is covered in skin changes and rashes
- The physical appearance of the skin (e.g. redness, thickness, scaliness, etc.)
- The presence of any other related conditions
Blood TestsBlood tests are not usually needed to help diagnose psoriasis. However, your GP may require it to test for other conditions which can appear similar to psoriasis. A sample of your blood will be drawn and taken to the laboratory for analysis. They will look for features in your blood to help with diagnosis.
Skin BiopsyWhile not always needed, a sample of your skin can also be taken for laboratory analysis. A medical specialist will look at the skin with a microscope to determine whether it results from psoriasis .
Psoriasis TreatmentPsoriasis treatment will vary from person to person based on the severity of the condition, their current situation and the doctor's judgment. As there is currently no cure, the purpose of the treatments is to help control the symptoms of psoriasis. Below is an example of treatments your doctor can recommend for the condition.
Skin TreatmentDoctors can prescribe creams, moisturisers, sprays and ointments that are applied to the skin. They help improve rehydrate and reinforce the skin . This targets the dry patches of skin that can develop in those living with mild to moderate psoriasis. Always use as directed by your doctor.
MedicationsThose that have more severe psoriasis or that don't respond to skin treatment may require medication. Some medications may need a referral to a dermatologist (skin specialist) from a GP . Regular follow-ups may be required to see how you respond to these medications.
Lifestyle ChangesTo prevent symptoms from being re-aggravated, your GP may recommend changes to your lifestyle and habits, including :
- Stress management
- Preventing damage to the skin (e.g. scratches, infections, etc.)
- Avoid dry and cold weather
- Regularly using moisturiser
- Eating a healthy diet
RecoveryPsoriasis is not curable. However, many treatments are available to help control the condition's symptoms. There will be periods when the symptoms are more severe and obvious. Treatment and healthy lifestyle practices are essential for avoiding these flare-ups.
ComplicationsIf psoriasis is not properly managed, it can lead to short-term and long-term complications, including :
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Low self-esteem and psychological health problems
- Increased risk of developing chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, chronic kidney conditions, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.)
- Alcohol abuse
Receiving quality care from highly experienced doctors is essential for a prompt diagnosis and receiving the correct medical treatment. With 24-7 MedCare, you can experience telemedicine from the convenience of your own home. Our friendly online doctors will be available 24/7 for a consultation, anytime and anywhere in Australia.
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- Parisi, R., Iskandar, I. Y., Kontopantelis, E., Augustin, M., Griffiths, C. E., & Ashcroft, D. M. (2020). National, regional, and worldwide epidemiology of psoriasis: systematic analysis and modelling study. Bmj, 369.
- Nair PA, Badri T. Psoriasis. [Updated 2022 Apr 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK448194