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Psoriasis is a common skin condition that affects about 3% of the Canadian population.  It is an inflammatory condition that results in red, scaly patches on the skin and changes in the nails.  Psoriasis can be severely debilitating and can impact one's quality of life, particularly if widespread.

What Does Psoriasis Look Like?

There are several different kinds of psoriasis.  The most common of these is chronic plaque psoriasis, which causes red scaly patches on the skin.  Psoriasis can occur anywhere but it  tends to favour the scalp, elbows, knees and buttocks.  The nails are frequently affected.  Psoriasis tends to be chronic and may come and go over an individual's lifetime.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an immune-mediated skin disorder.  An abnormality in the immune system results in inflammation in the skin, and that inflammation causes the red scaly patches that we see.  Genetics play an important role and psoriasis frequently runs in families.

Are There Other Conditions Associated with Psoriasis?

Yes.  Between 5 and 30% of individuals with psoriasis will also have psoriatic arthritis.  Psoriatic arthritis is more common in those who have severe psoriasis.   People with severe psoriasis are also at increased risk for metabolic syndrome.

How is Psoriasis Treated?

Limited psoriasis is usually treated with topical medications such as topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs or products that combine these two ingredients.  Moderate or severe psoriasis is often treated with phototherapy or systemic medications.  Systemic medications used in psoriasis include synthetic versions of vitamin A, methotrexate and biologic medications.

Are There any other Changes I can Make that Would be Helpful?

Yes.  Studies have shown that weight loss and smoking cessation can improve psoriasis in some individuals.