Psoriasis: An overview and some basic facts

Knowing how you stand

When your doctor first diagnoses psoriasis it can be a lot to take in. Although it can be a relief to learn that your condition has a name and that something can be done, you may still be anxious and confused.

Everyone’s experience of psoriasis symptoms will be different, varying from very mild (occasional patches and itching), to more severe symptoms.

If you have psoriasis, you have the power to manage it. By learning as much as you can about this condition, you will have the information you need to manage your psoriasis in the best possible way.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a medical condition that most commonly involves skin cells growing too quickly. Faulty signals originating in the immune system cause new skin cells to form in days rather than weeks. The abnormal, fast skin cell growth leads to psoriasis lesions; often called plaques. The lesions have three typical features: scaling, thickening and inflammation (swelling, redness and pain).

Everyone’s experience of psoriasis symptoms will be different, varying from very mild (occasional patches and itching) to much more severe physical symptoms.

Up to 30% of people who have psoriasis may also get psoriatic arthritis in their joints. If you think you may be affected, talk to your doctor and explain why.

How many people are affected?

Anyone can develop psoriasis. It is equally common in men and women, and it affects about 2-3% of the global population; about 1 million Canadians are affected.

Psoriasis can start at any age, but most people develop psoriasis between the ages of 20-35. In fact, 75% of the psoriasis cases occur before the age of 40. However, psoriasis can develop both in childhood and in old age.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown. It is a complex condition with many possible causes, which may be genetic based on family history, the body’s immune response, the environment, and the person’s mental health. These factors affect how skin cells act, speeding up the rate at which skin cells are produced and are shed.

Psoriasis is not contagious. Nobody gave it to you and it cannot be passed on by touch, swimming in the same pool, or by close contact.