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Psoriasis is a long-lasting autoimmune disease characterized by patches of abnormal skin.[6] These skin patches are typically red, dry, itchy, and scaly.[3]On people with darker skin the patches may be purple in colour.[9] Psoriasis varies in severity from small, localized patches to complete body coverage.[3]Injury to the skin can trigger psoriatic skin changes at that spot, which is known as the Koebner phenomenon.[10]

There are five main types of psoriasis: plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic.[6] Plaque psoriasis, also known as psoriasis vulgaris, makes up about 90 percent of cases.[4] It typically presents as red patches with white scales on top.[4] Areas of the body most commonly affected are the back of the forearms, shins, navel area, and scalp.[4] Guttate psoriasis has drop-shaped lesions.[6] Pustular psoriasis presents as small non-infectious pus-filled blisters.[11] Inverse psoriasis forms red patches in skin folds.[6] Erythrodermic psoriasis occurs when the rash becomes very widespread, and can develop from any of the other types.[4] Fingernails and toenails are affected in most people with psoriasis at some point in time.[4] This may include pits in the nails or changes in nail color.[4]

Psoriasis is generally thought to be a genetic disease that is triggered by environmental factors.[3] In twin studies, identical twins are three times more likely to be affected compared to non-identical twins. This suggests that genetic factors predispose to psoriasis.[4] Symptoms often worsen during winter and with certain medications, such as beta blockers or NSAIDs.[4] Infections and psychological stress can also play a role.[3][6] Psoriasis is not contagious.[4] The underlying mechanism involves the immune system reacting to skin cells.[4] Diagnosis is typically based on the signs and symptoms.[4]

There is no cure for psoriasis; however, various treatments can help control the symptoms.[4] These treatments include steroid creams, vitamin D3 cream, ultraviolet light and immune system suppressing medications, such as methotrexate.[6] About 75 percent of cases can be managed with creams alone.[4]The disease affects two to four percent of the population.[8] Men and women are affected with equal frequency.[6] The disease may begin at any age, but typically starts in adulthood.[5] Psoriasis is associated with an increased risk of psoriatic arthritis, lymphomas, cardiovascular disease, Crohn's disease and depression.[4] Psoriatic arthritis affects up to 30 percent of individuals with psoriasis.[11]


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