Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, scaly patches called plaques. The plaques are usually covered with silvery or whitish scales, and are often found on the knees, elbows, scalp, face, or lower back. People with psoriasis may have flare-ups where their psoriasis symptoms get worse. Stress, sunburns, allergic reactions, or infections may trigger a flare-up. Psoriasis symptoms may also get worse after stopping treatment with many medications.
Although the average age at diagnosis is 28 years, people may get psoriasis at any age. The cause of psoriasis is not known, but certain immune system cells known as T cells are believed to be involved. T cells are responsible for attacking foreign invaders in the body and for "activating" other immune system cells. There is also a genetic component to psoriasis: if psoriasis runs in your family, your risk may be increased.
A variety of treatments are available for psoriasis, including medications and phototherapy. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis.
Medication options include topical therapy, which is applied to the skin, and systemic therapy, which is given by mouth or by injection. Topical therapy includes coal tar, corticosteroids, calcipotriol, tazarotene, anthralin, and salicylic acid. Systemic therapy, which is used for moderate to severe cases of psoriasis, includes oral medications (acitretin, cyclosporine, and methotrexate) and a new class of medications called biologics. Currently, there is one biologic available in Canada for the treatment of psoriasis: alefacept (Amevive).
If you have any questions about psoriasis or its treatment, speak to your dermatologist, doctor, or pharmacist.
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