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What is psoriasis?

 

Psoriasis is an immune condition, which causes symptoms on the skin and sometimes the joints. When a person has psoriasis, their skin replacement process speeds up, taking just a few days to replace skin cells that usually take 21-28 days.

This abundance of skin cells builds up to form raised 'plaques' on the skin, which can also be flaky, scaly, red on caucasian skin, darker patches on darker skin tones, and itchy. Psoriasis can occur on any area of the body, including the scalp, hands, feet and genitals, although different types tend to occur on different areas.

Research has found that the psoriasis-causing changes in the skin begin in the immune system when certain immune cells (T cells) are triggered and become overactive. The T cells act as if they were fighting an infection or healing a wound, which leads to them producing inflammatory chemicals, again leading to the rapid growth of skin cells causing psoriatic plaques to form. Therefore you may hear psoriasis being described as an "auto-immune disease" or "immune-mediated condition". It is not yet clear what initially triggers the immune system to act in this way.

A flare-up of psoriasis can be triggered by a number of factors, such as stress or anxiety, injury to skin, hormonal changes, or certain infections or medications.