Psoriasis is a skin disorder which takes its name from the Greek word for " itch," and usually appears as inflamed swollen skin lesions covered with silvery white scales. It commonly affects the scalp, knees, elbows, hands and feet.

Psoriasis affects over six million people in the USA, particularly those between the ages of 15 and 35. The disorder comes in many forms which differ in severity, duration, location and in the shape and pattern of the lesions.

PsoriasisSkin cells in a normal growth pattern are created in the basal cell layer and move up to the outermost layer, where they are shed at about the same rate as new ones are produced. This process normally takes about 28 days.

When skin is injured, the cells are produced at a faster rate to replace and repair the wound. There is also an increased blood supply and localized inflammation. In psoriasis, the growth and maturation rate of skin cells is increased and the whole process can occur in as little as three to six days. The skin cannot shed the dead cells fast enough and they build up and form scaly lesions.

The cause of psoriasis is unknown, although it may have a genetic component and may be an autoimmune disorder. A trigger, such as a medication or an injury to the skin, may cause psoriasis to develop.

Nutritional factors, stress and psychological factors may also play a part. It is common for a flare up of symptoms to accompany an infection, especially a respiratory one.

Environmental factors such as stress, and climate (usually cold) are important in some patients. About a third of patients have spontaneous remissions of their disease. Some cases are associated with severe arthritis, called psoriatic arthritis.

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