Why Do I Have Psoriasis?

When most people hear the word “psoriasis,” they think of patches of flaky, dry, discolored skin. But there’s more to psoriasis than dry skin. If you’ve been diagnosed with this uncomfortable condition, you’re probably wondering why you have it and what you can about it.

Our team of expert providers at the private practice of Allen A. Flood, MD, helps patients struggling to manage psoriasis. Every patient at our offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, receives customized treatment plans tailored to address their specific symptoms. 

As part of our comprehensive approach to patient care, we’ve put together this informative guide to answer common questions about psoriasis. Read on to learn more. 

What is psoriasis? 

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that can affect your skin, nails, and joints. With psoriasis, your immune system attacks healthy cells instead of harmful cells, resulting in a buildup of skin cells. 

Healthy skin cells begin in the deeper layers of your skin and come to the surface slowly. At the end of their lifecycle, they fall off and are replaced by new cells. The entire cycle takes about one month. 

When you have psoriasis, your skin cycle goes into overdrive, taking only days instead of a month. The old cells don’t have time to fall away, and as they collect on the surface of your skin, you develop scaling. 

Psoriasis scales are usually silvery white and develop in thick, dry, red patches called “plaques,” which can crack, itch, and bleed. Some people also experience burning and soreness around the plaques. Plaques can develop in may places, but the most common include:

Sometimes psoriasis can cause thickened or pitted nails and swollen joints, a condition called psoriatic arthritis.  

Psoriasis isn’t contagious, meaning you can’t pass the condition to another person and you won’t develop the condition after touching someone with psoriasis.

Why do I have psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t understood, but since it’s an autoimmune condition, researchers believe it is a genetic disorder. This means if a close relative has psoriasis, your risk of developing it is greater than average. 

But as with other autoimmune disorders, carrying the gene for psoriasis only means you have a chance of developing the condition. Some people with the gene never develop active psoriasis. 

Researchers believe that something triggers the disorder in people struggling with the condition. In other words, both genetic and environmental factors likely contributed to your psoriasis.   

What does my psoriasis flare up?

If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis, it doesn’t mean you’ll always have active psoriasis plaques. Sometimes people can go years without symptoms before something causes a psoriasis flare-up. This period is called remission. 

Everyone’s autoimmune system works a little differently, so what causes a flare-up in one person may not cause your psoriasis to flare. But there are some common triggers, including:

Researchers also believe that different foods, like gluten, red meat, and dairy, may trigger inflammation and, therefore, psoriasis flare-ups in some people. Keep note of your food, and if you notice your skin reacts after eating certain foods, avoid them. 

At the same time, anti-inflammatory foods like fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and spices and herbs high in antioxidants may help you control your psoriasis. 

Is there a cure for psoriasis?

There is no cure for psoriasis, but Dr. Flood specializes in helping patients manage their symptoms and reduce psoriasis flare-ups. Each treatment plan differs depending on your type of psoriasis, symptoms, and any known triggers. 

We use a combination of treatments to address symptoms and flare-ups, including:

Dr. Flood also uses phototherapy — narrow-band UVB light therapy that penetrates deeper layers of your skin and is believed to slow the growth of the affected skin cells. Many times, patients receive more than one treatment to best reduce symptoms and encourage longer cycles of remission.   

Learn more about psoriasis and the treatment options available to you by contacting our office to request an appointment. Returning patients may also schedule a telehealth appointment.

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