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October 23, 2019

How can I recognize psoriasis?

Psoriasis treatment BerlinWorld Psoriasis Day takes place every year on October 29. This date gives people with the disease a voice and helps to provide targeted information about psoriasis, its symptoms, causes and treatment options. Because although psoriasis is a widespread disease that can break out at any age, ignorance and even prejudice are still common. Many psoriasis patients feel discriminated against by the majority of their fellow human beings, as they are excluded for fear of infection. Around 125 million people worldwide are affected by the disease, which is not actually infectious (contagious). World Psoriasis Day and its campaigns are officially supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here you can find out how you can recognize psoriasis and how the diagnosis is made by a doctor.

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What are the aims of World Psoriasis Day?

The organizers and participants of Psoriasis Day primarily want to raise awareness of the disease. This is intended to give those affected the feeling that they are not alone. Both patients and other people are provided with information about the disease and its consequences. The day of action also creates a central platform and brings people together across countries to exchange ideas. It is also important to debunk or correct existing myths. This also increases understanding in society. The day also serves to encourage health authorities and medical institutions to improve patient care for psoriasis sufferers in order to provide them with optimal treatment.

Typical signs: How can I tell if I have psoriasis?

Psoriasis vulgaris – the most common form of psoriasis – can be recognized by conspicuous skin changes. Inflammation and severe scaling occur in the affected areas. The areas can also itch, burn and hurt. The causes of psoriasis are not yet fully understood. In response to a stimulus, the body triggers an inflammatory reaction in order to fight supposed intruders or harmful factors. This causes the typical reddening of the skin. At the same time, the body tries to heal the inflamed areas by increasing skin renewal. The normal skin renewal process takes around 28 days; in the case of psoriasis, the process takes place within a few days. Due to this overly rapid cell formation, the immature skin cells are pushed to the surface and settle there as silvery scales.

Symptoms of psoriasis on fingernails and toenails

Around half of psoriasis patients experience changes to the fingernails and toenails during the course of the disease. They often show a yellowish or white discoloration and thicken. In addition, cracks and indentations can occur in the nails with so-called nail psoriasis. Nail deformities are also not uncommon. It is possible that the affected nails become brittle or even detach from the nail bed. In many cases, nail psoriasis is preceded by joint inflammation (psoriatic arthritis).

Psoriatic disease of the musculoskeletal system (psoriatic arthritis)

Around 30 percent of psoriasis sufferers also suffer from psoriatic arthritis. This is an inflammation of the joints of the musculoskeletal system, which is accompanied by joint pain, swelling of the fingers and toes and painful changes in the tendons. Over time, the inflammation can lead to irreversible joint damage. Psoriasis of the joints can restrict those affected to such an extent that they are no longer able to cope properly with everyday tasks.

Similar skin diseases and their symptoms

Psoriasis can usually be easily differentiated from other skin diseases on the basis of its typical signs. Dermatologists therefore generally do not find it difficult to make a diagnosis. Only in exceptional cases can doubts arise and a differential diagnosis be necessary, for example if the lesions of the dermatosis (skin disease) resemble the appearance of psoriasis (reddened skin, scaling). Even if the psoriasis is very localized and only occurs on the nails, scalp or soles of the feet, for example, this can make diagnosis more difficult. Disease patterns comparable to psoriasis include
seborrhoeic dermatosis (characterized by red scaly plaques, usually on the face) and eczema (red plaques, often with blistering, which tend to ooze and can lead to scabbing).

How the doctor diagnoses psoriasis

The dermatologist can often diagnose psoriasis just by looking at the skin. If it is psoriasis, the expert will also analyze the severity of the disease. It is important that patients also point out possible “hidden” areas that may be affected by itching and scaling. This can include the scalp, the soles of the feet or the genital area. The doctor will also examine the toenails and fingernails for possible psoriasis symptoms. In rare cases, the doctor will arrange for an additional examination of a skin sample (biopsy). If the patient also complains of joint pain, a blood test and x-rays are usually also advisable in order to determine whether psoriatic arthritis is present. A referral to a rheumatologist may be necessary.

Very modern methods are now available for the treatment of psoriasis. With the help of these methods, it is often even possible to control the disease almost completely, so that flare-ups occur less frequently and less intensively or are completely absent for a longer period of time.

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