More than 8 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that can take a big toll on your quality of life. Psoriasis won’t go away on its own — it needs special treatment to keep its symptoms under control. Getting that treatment begins with knowing if your rash is caused by psoriasis or if something else is going on.
If you have a rash, Michele Meinhart, FNP, can help. Through a comprehensive skin exam and testing when needed, she diagnoses skin rashes in patients at Starkey Medical Esthetics and prescribes the right treatment — for psoriasis and other rashes, too. Here are four ways psoriasis differs from other rashes.
Why it happens
Although many rashes are caused by allergies to chemicals, foods, or medicines, psoriasis is caused by an autoimmune disorder. Researchers aren’t sure why, but if you have psoriasis, your immune system triggers changes in your skin cell production, increasing the rate at which new cells are made.
Normally it takes about four weeks for new skin cells to make it to your skin’s surface where they replace old, damaged cells. In psoriasis, that cycle is sped up, and migrating skin cells reach the surface much faster, creating scaly patches called plaques.
Unlike other types of rashes, psoriasis tends to run in families, which means there may also be a genetic factor at play, as well. Like allergic skin conditions, symptoms may be triggered by skin injuries, stress, medications, or even cold weather.
Where it happens
Allergies and eczema, another common skin condition, can happen just about anywhere. Psoriasis outbreaks tend to occur in certain areas of the body, including your:
Eczema often shows up in areas where you perspire, like the inner elbow or the backs of your knees. Contact dermatitis (or contact eczema) shows up in areas of your skin that have been irritated by a chemical or other substance.
What it looks like
There are different types of psoriasis, and each can look a little different. Most people with psoriasis have silvery or whitish patches called plaque. The skin tends to feel thicker, harder, or leathery in areas affected by psoriasis. If psoriasis affects your nails, they may appear cracked or brittle.
What it feels like
In addition to intense itching, psoriasis is often associated with burning sensations or painful skin. Sometimes, psoriasis affects your joints and causes joint pain and stiffness.
Psoriasis cannot be cured, but there are many ways to manage your symptoms, so you feel better and your skin looks clearer. Because it’s an autoimmune disorder, psoriasis benefits most from an individualized approach to care, with treatments based on your symptoms and other factors.
Possible treatment options include:
- Special moisturizers
- Skin creams or ointments
- Medicated lotions, shampoos, and cleansers
- Ointments containing vitamin A or vitamin D3
- Medicines to slow skin cell production
- Medicines to control immune system overreaction
- UV light therapy
If you have joint pain, you might benefit from medication to reduce joint discomfort and slow joint damage. Many people have multiple therapies, and therapy may change over time as your skin’s needs change.
Stop the itch
The only way to know for sure if your rash is caused by psoriasis or something else is to schedule a skin evaluation. A visual exam combined with a skin biopsy can confirm your diagnosis.
Don’t let itchy, red, unsightly psoriasis plaques take a toll on your comfort and your quality of life. There are treatments that can help you find relief. To learn more about psoriasis treatment at our Salem, Virginia, practice, call 540-389-0909, or book an appointment online at Starkey Medical Esthetics today.