This is unfortunately a question I hear more often than not. "What's THAT?!?" strangers ask while pointing to one of my numerous SHEDDING scabs covering my arms and legs.
"It's psoriasis", I reply. "What's Psoriasis? Is it contagious? It looks like insects attacked you! Have you tried breast milk on it? I hear emu oil cures everything!"
Haha bless them, I think as I explain to them exactly what psoriasis is and that they are at no risk of catching the autoimmune disease.
If only they knew the number of remedies, medications, ointments and wives tail cures I have tried over the years.
Don't get me wrong. Many of those at home remedies and lifestyle changes can bring sufferers much relief. But a cure? Alas remission is all that we 'lepers' can hope for.
So what exactly is Psoriasis?
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin. A chronic condition that causes skin cells to grow too quickly, resulting in thick, white, silvery, or red patches of skin.
You see normal skin cells grow gradually and flake off about every 4 weeks. New skin cells grow to replace the outer layers of the skin as they shed. But in psoriasis, new skin cells move rapidly to the surface of the skin in days rather than weeks.
In healthy adult skin there is a constant SHEDDING of dead cells. However, due to the acceleration of the replacement process, both dead and live cells accumulate on the skin surface. Often this causes red, flaky, crusty patches covered with silvery scales, which are SHED easily.
Psoriasis affects approximately 3% of the worlds population, usually developing between the ages of 15 and 35 years. Doctors believe there is a genetic link, with around 30% of people with one first degree relative with psoriasis develop the condition.
This genetic tendency is usually triggered by infection; certain medicines, psychological factors, or skin trauma.
Here are the five most common types of Psoriasis
The most common form of the condition. It is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, although it can occur on any area of the skin.
Inverse psoriasis is found in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in other skin folds around the genitals and the buttocks.
This type of psoriasis first shows up as lesions that are very red and usually lack the scale associated with plaque psoriasis. It may appear smooth and shiny.
Inverse psoriasis is particularly subject to irritation from rubbing and sweating because of its location in skin folds and tender areas. It is more common and troublesome in overweight people and people with deep skin folds.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis that often affects most of the body surface. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis, where lesions are not clearly defined. It is characterized by periodic, widespread, fiery redness of the skin.
The erythema (reddening) and exfoliation (shedding) of the skin are often accompanied by severe itching and pain. Erythrodermic psoriasis "throws off" the body chemistry, causing protein and fluid loss that can lead to severe illness.
Edema (swelling from fluid retention) especially around the ankles, may also develop along with infection.
The body's temperature regulation is often disrupted, producing shivering episodes. Infection, pneumonia and congestive heart failure brought on by erythrodermic psoriasis can be life threatening. People with severe cases of this condition are often hospitalized.
This often starts in childhood or young adulthood and resembles small, red, individual spots on the skin that are not normally as thick or as crusty as lesions of plaque psoriasis.
A variety of conditions have been known to bring on an attack of guttate psoriasis, including upper respiratory infections, streptoccocal infections,tonsillitis, stress, injury to the skin and the administration of certain drugs (including antimalarials, lithium and beta-blockers).
This form of psoriasis may resolve on its own, occasionally leaving a person free of further outbreaks, or it may clear for a time only to reappear later as patches of plaque psoriasis.
Primarily seen in adults, pustular psoriasis is characterized by white pustules (blisters of noninfectious pus) surrounded by red skin. It is not an infection, nor is it contagious.
This relatively unusual form of psoriasis affects fewer than 5% of all people with psoriasis.
Individuals with psoriasis often notice when their skin gets worse. Things that can cause these flare-ups include a cold and dry climate, infections, stress, and dry skin. Also, certain medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and medicines used to treat high blood pressure or certain mental illnesses, may trigger an outbreak or make your psoriasis worse.
Smoking, especially in women, makes you more likely to get psoriasis and can make it worse if you already have it.
Psoriasis is not contagious. It cannot be spread by touch from person to person. However that doesn't stop individuals who suffer from Psoriasis from suffering severe depression and anxiety over their skin condition.
So please, next time you see a poor sod with a skin condition, show a little compassion. Don't point and stare, or retract in disgust. Tell them how beautiful they are. Tell them that you like there dress or shirt or hair. You never know just how much of an impact that one nice comment may make to their entire life.