Psoriasis is a very common condition that affects the skin. It is a chronic, autoimmune condition involving a quick turnover of the skin cells, and eventually the older skin cells die, slough off, and new skin cells are formed. Since the skin cells are rapidly replaced, the skin commonly has the appearance of dry, silver/white scaly patches. Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the skin, but is commonly found on the arms, legs, scalp, elbows, and back. However, it can also affect the toes, toenails, and joints as well, and cause discomfort.
What Causes Psoriasis
While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, the condition itself is autoimmune, and commonly runs in families with a history of psoriasis. Since it is autoimmune, individuals with weakened immune systems due to other conditions are at risk for developing severe psoriatic reactions (AIDS, cancer treatments, certain medications, etc.). There are also several known risk factors that may trigger bouts of psoriasis. They may not be the same for every person with psoriasis and can possibly change over time. These factors include: stress, alcohol, medications, infections, and abrasive injuries (cuts, scrapes, etc.).
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis
People who have psoriasis can experience symptoms in as little as a few days. It should be noted that not everyone with psoriasis will experience these symptoms, but the following are commonly seen in people with psoriasis:
- Reddened skin with dry, white/silver scaly patches (also called psoriatic plaques)
- Itchiness or soreness around affected areas of the skin
- Pitting of the toe and fingernails
- Bleeding from cracked dry skin
- Pain in the joints
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis, but there are numerous treatment options available to help reduce the irritation, inflammation, and discomfort experienced with psoriatic lesions. The following are some ways to help maintain healthy skin or decrease the pain/inflammation:
- Always ensure your skin is well-moisturized
- Topical steroids to reduce the inflammation, pain, and itching
- Vitamin D analogues to help slow skin growth
- Phototherapy (light therapy) to help slow skin cell turnover and reduce inflammation
- Minimize exposure to known risk factors (i.e. stress, alcohol)
When Should I See a Podiatrist?
Since psoriasis is not limited to just one location on the body, so other parts can be affected as well, such as the foot and ankle. If your feet are reddened and itchy, a podiatrist can help determine if psoriasis is the cause, or if it is due to another foot/ankle pathology. Another common finding in people with psoriasis is pitting of the toe nails, and it can sometimes look similar to a fungal nail appearance. While it is possible to have both a fungal infection and psoriasis of the foot, it is important to distinguish the difference between the two so proper treatment can be started. If you are experiencing psoriasis on your feet, see a podiatrist.
If you are experiencing psoriasis on your feet, please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona, and have all your treatment options presented to you and ensure you and your family maintain healthy feet.