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Psoriasis 101: Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the skin condition

Do you have dry and cracked skin that bleeds? If you said yes, then visit a dermatologist because these could be the early signs of psoriasis.
Alert! Those red, itchy patches could be psoriasis. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 13 Oct 2023, 01:33 pm IST
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India reports negligible number of cases, when it comes to psoriasis. But that doesn’t meant that this skin affliction does affect us Indians–it’s just that very few of us have any awareness about.

In fact, this condition is anything but insubstantial as about 125 million people suffer from psoriasis worldwide.

Yet, people who don’t have any knowledge about it think it to be contagious and hesitate to be around the people who have it. 

So, what is psoriasis really?
Dr Sanjiv Kandhari, a New Delhi-based dermatologist, says: 

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition in which patients develop red, itchy patches because of an overactive immune system. These lesions are often the cause of embarrassment and distress for many sufferers

The skin cells of the individual suffering from psoriasis grows, matures and dies in just two weeks. And instead of falling off, they pile up to form painful and itchy patches or lesions. In a healthy person, on the other hand, this process takes three to four weeks–and dead skin cells are replaced by new ones. 

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Being diagnosed with psoriasis also puts patients at a higher risk of other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, patients with severe psoriasis are at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?
The symptoms of psoriasis vary from person to person. However, common ones include inflamed skin patches, dry and cracked skin that bleeds, soreness, and plaques or scales. Most cases of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for some time and then subsiding for a period.

Psoriasis is often triggered by factors such as mental stress, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, skin injury or skin infection, vitamin D deficiency, and certain medications.

Psoriasis majorly affects women in their 20s and 30s
While men are at higher risk of this condition in India, there is an additional stigma that female victims of psoriasis have to face. Depending on the life stage they’re at–say getting married, pregnancy, or breastfeeding–they have to modify their treatment plan and change medication.

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Breastfeeding mothers with psoriasis have it particularly tough as they need to change their treatment course. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

“I have often observed that young women with this condition worry about whether they will find a partner willing to marry them. Intimacy is also a concern for patients because about 60% of people with plaque psoriasis–the most common type of psoriasis–have patches on their genital areas,” explains Dr Kandhari

These fears are understandable, which is why women must consult their doctors to ensure that their condition is treated promptly and is well-managed. 

The stigma attached with psoriasis can be tough to deal with
Because of lack of awareness, many people are unaware about the disease and believe common misconceptions like psoriasis is contagious. Moreover, the appearance of the rash on exposed areas of a patient’s skin can make people uncomfortable. All of this may lead to the social isolation of patients. Which might affect their emotional and mental well being. 

While the cause of psoriasis is yet to be known, it’s certainly not contagious and it cannot be contracted from being in close proximity with someone who has it. 

Psoriasis is a chronic condition that needs lifelong support and management. It is vital for its patients to take medication as prescribed and be regular with their medical check-ups, in order to live a productive and fulfilling life—despite psoriasis. And yes, that’s possible. 

(With inputs from IANS)

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