Sunday, December 28, 2008

Psoriasis

How is psoriasis defined?
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition which affects approximately 1-3% of the worlds population (1). It appears as red plaques covered with silvery scale that flakes away from the skin. Psoriatic plaques are often found on the elbows, scalp and knees but can also affect other parts of the body such as the face, feet and mucous membranes. Psoriasis is not contagious, nor is it caused by an allergy. However, the tendency to develop the condition can be genetically transmitted.Psoriasis causes itching in 60% to 70% of cases (2).
What are the different types of psoriasis?
Psoriasis may appear at any age, but there are two peak onset periods; during childhood/early adulthood (early onset psoriasis) and after age 40 (late onset) (1). There is strong evidence for a genetic predisposition to psoriasis, in particular to childhood psoriasis. It is estimated that 71% of patients with childhood psoriasis have a positive family history (2). There are multiple forms of psoriasis and they are often distinguished based on the location and appearance of the lesions. The presence and distribution of psoriatic plaques is highly variable; some people suffer from a single plaque of psoriasis on a specific part of their body, whereas others suffer from psoriasis all over their bodies. Psoriasis is accompanied by itching in 60% to 70% of cases (3). There is to date no permanent cure for psoriasis and eruptions often recur. However, most treatments are related to significant improvements in quality of life.
References:
(1) Schon, N Engl J Med, 2005; Greaves, N Engl J Med, 1995.
(2) Sampogna, Br J dermatol, 2004.

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