If you have just been diagnosed with psoriasis, you may have some questions about it. Here are answers to some of the most common questions people ask.
What is the difference between psoriasis and eczema?
To the untrained eye, these cases may look similar. But while both are skin diseases, they are not the same. “They’re 100 percent different, actually,” says Whitney Hay, MD, associate professor of dermatology and director of the dermatology lab at the University of Colorado Medical Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz.
Hay says psoriasis does not usually affect children. But eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a disease of children. Eczema also tends to be more itchy than psoriasis. Only about a third of people with psoriasis say they itch.
Conditions are likely to appear in different places. Eczema often appears on children’s faces, buttocks, and inside their knees and elbows. Psoriasis is not usually found in those places.
In addition, “the same person with childhood eczema does not develop psoriasis. A person with psoriasis as an adult does not usually have childhood eczema,” says Hay.
What causes psoriasis?
Doctors aren’t entirely sure. “I get it a lot; why do I get it?” says Melvin Chiu, MD, a dermatologist at David Geffen Medical Center at UCLA. It’s a big mystery, I think, now.”
Chiu says researchers believe the two main causes of psoriasis are your genes and your environment. Scientists are still tracking down the responsible genes, but they believe about 1 in 10 people have got at least one of the genes that can lead to psoriasis from their parents. But only about 3% of people with these genes develop psoriasis. This is where the environment comes in.
Researchers believe that things like infection (particularly strep throat), skin injury, certain medications, smoking, and other things may trigger this condition.
what is the cure?
“There is no cure at this point,” Chiu says. “It’s a chronic condition… you may have times when it’s worse, and there may be times when you get better.” He also says that there may be some lucky people whose bottom line is very minimal. Or get better and never get worse again. But he says most people “expect it to continue”. Treating it can make it even better. But when treatments stop, they often come back.
“There are some really excellent treatments,” he says. “There are newer treatments in the pipeline and many more [that] Currently available…working fine. “These treatments don’t cure the disease, he says.” But it greatly improves the disease and makes [people] I feel better “.
What are the treatments?
The most common medications are those prescribed by your doctor. They include the foams, lotions, ointments or creams, called topicals, that you put on your skin, along with the medications you take that affect your entire body. Your doctor may also recommend light therapy.
“Consult a board-certified dermatologist, and they will be happy to discuss any and all of these options, including over-the-counter options when appropriate,” says Hay.
What works for one person may not work for another. That’s why you and your doctor need to talk about what your treatment plan should be.
With the treatments available now, Chiu says, “we can have a lot better skin.” He says that 20 to 30 years ago, psoriasis patients had far worse choices and far fewer choices than people do now. “I tell people, it’s kind of an exciting time with psoriasis.”
Can the sun help?
Some research says that a little bit each day can help treat symptoms. But, as always, you have to be careful not to overdo it. Sunburn may cause fires.
Is psoriasis contagious?
You cannot “give” it to anyone, and no one can “take” it from you.
“You can touch your psoriasis all day,” Hay says. “As a dermatologist… I see at least one if not a few people with psoriasis [every work day], I do not have. Hay adds, ‘My wife doesn’t have it. I didn’t bring him home. I don’t do private laundry. I don’t take my clothes off in the garage or anything like that.”
What is psoriatic arthritis?
Up to 30% of people with psoriasis develop this condition as well. It causes inflammation and swelling in your joints, which can lead to pain and stiffness.
If you have psoriasis and feel any discomfort in your joints, tell your doctor. It is important to treat it quickly so as not to damage your joints.
Are there any other conditions associated with psoriasis?
Research is still ongoing, but scientists believe that people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may be more likely to develop other serious illnesses.
“There is a growing appreciation that psoriasis can present in other ways: increased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased risk of obesity … a natural risk of developing diabetes,” Hay says. “It may affect your life in ways you can’t even fully predict right now.”
Besides cardiovascular disease and obesity, psoriasis has also been linked to cancer, Crohn’s disease, depression, and liver disease, among others.
This is all the more reason to stay in touch with your doctor and make sure you have a plan.
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