Psoriasis is common, affecting more than 7.5 million people in the United
States. It can develop at any age. And while it may look contagious –
Phillip Cecchini, MD, a family medicine physician at
Mission Heritage Medical Group in Laguna Niguel, takes you through the basics:
What is psoriasis?
“It’s a chronic condition that causes raised, red scaly patches
to appear on the skin,” Dr. Cecchini says. “Genetics and someone’s
immune system both play a major role. Your immune system protects your
body by destroying bacteria and viruses. If you have psoriasis, your immune
system misfires and causes skin cells to reproduce too quickly. The skin
cells accumulate on the body and the skin becomes red, itchy, sore and
scaly. Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body, such as the knees, scalp,
elbows, hands and the soles of the feet. There are five different types
How do you get psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an equal opportunity disease—anyone can get it, although
it’s more common in adults. Family history of the disease can increase
the chances of developing psoriasis. Triggers include stress, some medications
and infections that attack the immune system. You can’t catch psoriasis
from someone else.
How is it treated?
“That depends on the type and severity of psoriasis and the location
of the skin problem,” Dr. Cecchini says. “Options include
skin ointments, medication, ultraviolet light therapy or a combination
of them. Certain parts of the body may require a certain kind of treatment—medicated
shampoo for the scalp, for instance.”
How do you know if you have it?
A doctor will run tests to make sure it is psoriasis and not another skin
Does it pose health risks?
About 30 percent of people with psoriasis also get psoriatic arthritis.
Both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis carry an increased risk of cardiovascular
disease, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, obesity and some cancers, among
other health problems. “Some studies also indicate that people with
psoriasis are more prone to depression,” Dr. Cecchini says.
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