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Introduction to psoriasis

By Olivia Stevenson and Irshad Zaki

Psoriasis is one of the commonest skin disorders seen by general practitioners. It is a chronic skin disease that affects 2–3 per cent of the population in Western Europe. Worldwide, there are estimated to be 80 million people suffering from psoriasis.

The prevalence of psoriasis is identical in men and women, and across all socioeconomic groups. Certain areas, such as South America, China, and Nigeria, have a particularly low prevalence.

Psoriasis can develop at any age, although it commonly appears between the ages of 15 and 22. A second peak appears during the 60–69 age range. Females tend to develop psoriasis slightly earlier than males, and those with a family history also have an earlier age of onset. The disease may last for just a few weeks or for a lifetime, with alternating periods of relapses and remissions. It is difficult to predict the course of the disease.

Description

Psoriasis is an inflammatory and proliferative disease of the skin that results in a rapid turnover of the skin cells. The turnover of cells can rise to seven times the normal rate, leading to thickening of the superficial layers of the skin. The most characteristic lesions consist of sharply demarcated, dullred or salmon-pink thickened patches with silvery scales.

The extensor surfaces of the limbs (especially the elbows, knees and shins), scalp, and lower back/buttocks are particularly affected, but psoriasis may involve any part of the body. When psoriasis involves the groins, armpits, perineum and the area under the breasts, the lesions tend to be less scaly and rather shiny.

The disease is highly variable in duration and extent, and there are several common morphological variants. Contrary to popular belief, up to 50 per cent of affected patients experience significant itch, especially on the scalp and lower legs.

Download the attached PDF to read the full article.

Citation: Hospital Pharmacist URI: 10976344

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