Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious inflammatory skin disease which affects approximately 2-5% of the population worldwide or approximately 1 million Canadians. Psoriasis can affect people of all races and ages, however, most patients are first diagnosed in their early adult years. Guttate psoriasis, which flares up following a viral or bacterial infection, normally affects children and young adults.
In psoriasis, the keratinocytes of the skin multiply very rapidly and travel from the bottom layer of the epidermis to the surface in approximately 4 days as opposed to the usual 28 days. The skin cannot shed these cells quickly enough, so they build up and leading to thick, dry and flaky patches or plaques, commonly affecting the scalp, torso, elbows, and knees but can occur anywhere on the body.
Causes of Psoriasis
The cause of psoriasis is unknown, although it is well accepted that there is an underlying genetic component which, when triggered, causes the immune system to produce an excessive number of skin cells. For this reason, it is termed an auto-immune disorder.
Triggers of Psoriasis
Whilst psoriasis is termed as a genetic, autoimmune disorder, there are many different environmental triggers which can either initiate or exacerbate a flare. Some potential triggers include:
- Diet – high calorie/fat diets, alcohol
- Stress – emotional and physical
- Certain Medications