Psoriasis is the most common skin condition known today. People who develop it have plaque-psoriasis, which appears as patches of raised, reddish skin covered by silvery-white scale. These patches, or plaques, frequently form on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. However, the plaques can occur anywhere on the body. This is a chronic condition because there is currently no cure. People often experience flare ups and remissions throughout their life. Controlling the signs and symptoms typically requires lifelong therapy.
This condition usually causes much discomfort; the skin often itches, and it may crack and bleed. In severe cases, the itching and discomfort may keep a person awake at night, and the pain can make everyday tasks difficult. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Some are so mild that the person is unaware of the condition. Recently, research has significantly advanced in the understanding of this skin condition.
One important breakthrough began with the discovery that kidney-transplant recipients who had this form of dermatitis experienced clearing when taking cyclosporine. Since cyclosporine is an immunosuppressive medication, this indicates that the immune system is involved. However, living with this lifelong condition can be physically and emotionally challenging. Itching, soreness, cracked and bleeding skin are common. Several studies have shown that people often feel frustrated. In some cases, it limits activities and makes it difficult to perform job responsibilities.
The National Psoriasis Foundation reports that 56 million work hours are lost each year by those who have it. Additionally, a survey conducted by the same foundation in 2002 indicates that 26% of people living with a moderate to severe form have been forced to change or discontinue their normal daily activities.
Studies also have shown that stress, anxiety, loneliness, and low self-esteem are part of daily life for people living with it. Imagine the embarrassment and pain an individual suffers with this condition.
Unfortunately, more than 4.5 million adults in the United States have been diagnosed with psoriasis, and approximately 150,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. An estimated 20% have moderate to severe conditions. While it occurs equally in males and females, more recent studies show that there may be an ethnic link. It seems that it is most common in Caucasians and slightly less common in African Americans. Additionally, it is most common in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe. It appears to be far less common among Asians and is rare in Native Americans.