What is Psoriasis?

What is psoriasis? Is it just a cosmetic issue, or something more? And what are its long-term risks? House Call Doctor examines the issue that affects close to 7.5 million Americans (including Kim Kardashian.)

Sanaz Majd, MD,
Episode #185

As I sat visiting my father in a physical therapy rehab center (following his recent, unfortunate stroke), I was delighted to find that he is able to distract his mind and enjoy some entertainment by watching all-day rerun marathons of the hit reality show, "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."

Having given up TV (not just cable) a long time ago, I was left wondering about the appeal of this show, which even my 80-something-year-old parents can’t seem to get enough of. Whatever it may be, I am simply grateful that it is keeping my dad occupied and distracted, even for a moment.                                                

For those of you who also can’t get enough of reality TV, you may have discovered (certainly before myself) that Kim Kardashian revealed her diagnosis of psoriasis on her show. And more likely than not, you may know someone in real life who suffers from psoriasis, too, given that up to 7.5 million Americans are estimated to have this diagnosis.

So what exactly is psoriasis? Is is just a cosmetic issue, or more than that? And what are its risks?  Let’s find out in today’s episode..

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a medical condition that falls under the larger heading of “autoimmune disorder.”  These are disorders in which the immune system erroneously produces a certain protein called an “antibody,” which then attacks “normal” parts of our bodies, such as the joints or skin.

Besides psoriasis, other examples of autoimmune disorders you may have heard of include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease (which is related to the thyroid), and Type I diabetes

Kim Kardashian’s mom also reportedly has psoriasis, which is not unusual: there’s a genetic component in the disorder, and these genes are inherited from our parents in 40% of those with psoriasis.  Symptoms often first show up sometime between the age of 15 and 30 – typically on the younger side. 

What Does Psoriasis Look Like?

A rash is the primary symptom in those with psoriasis, and just ras there are various types of psoriasis, there are varying appearances of the rash.  But the most common type of psoriasis includes a reddish, well-demarcated (meaning the border or lining is distinct and easily visible) patch, with an overlying white or silvery-scale.  It can be itchy, but for most patients the itchiness is mild. 

The rash also tends to vary in severity. Some patients may have a mild case, with a very small skin patch, on rare occasions throughout their lives, while others might have widespread disease with rashes covering everything from the scalp down to the toes.   

Besides the skin, psoriasis can sometimes affect the nails with a characteristic “pitting” appearance on the surface.  The fingernails are often more affected than the toenails.


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