OVERVIEW

Psoriasis is a skin condition which is characterized by the buildup of skin cells which causes scales and dry itchy patches of skin. It is common, as there are over 3 million cases in the United States each year. Confirmation of this condition requires a medical diagnosis, and if you are unsure if you may have psoriasis, set up an appointment with your local dermatologist to find out.

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Psoriasis tends to be genetic, and can appear at any age. Some common triggers can include:

  • Infections
  • Stress
  • Colds

The most common symptom by far is a skin rash, but psoriasis can also be found on the nails and affect the joint areas.

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Although psoriasis cannot be fully cured, there are various treatments available that can help manage the condition and improve the quality of life of those who have this condition. Types of treatment can include, but are not limited to:

  • Topical ointments
  • Light therapy
  • Medications
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Regardless of the type of treatment provided, the common goal of treatments is to remove scales and slow the growth of skin cells that cause buildup. Some of the related conditions to psoriasis include:

  • Atopic dermatitis: itchy inflammatory skin patches
  • Contact dermatitis: a skin rash which is caused by physical contact with a specific substance
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: a skin condition which results in scaly patches, usually found on the scalp

If you would like further clarification on any of the above conditions or psoriasis, please contact your primary care doctor or local dermatologist. However, if you have been to a primary care doctor or dermatologist and they have not been able to treat your rash, call Dr. Kristi Hawley at 616-326-0114. Dr. Hawley is known for helping psoriasis patients who have been unsuccessfully treated or managed by other providers. If this sounds like you, you can join the many patients who have finally found relief from their psoriasis after countless other failed attempts.

SYMPTOMS

Again, psoriasis typically manifests itself as a rash on the skin, but it can also be found on the nails or joint areas.

Common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Skin dryness, flakiness, peeling of the skin
  • Small bumps on the skin 
  • Skin that is overly thick and abnormally red

Psoriasis can affect more than just skin, which is why it's important to seek an expert that can help identify and treat these other conditions. Patients with psoriasis have a higher risk of developing:

  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes and obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint stiffness and pain
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TREATMENTS

While the goal of treatment is to improve the appearance of skin, it is also important to find a physician who takes a holistic approach to care, since psoriasis affects more than just skin. Psoriasis can be treated with medical procedures, medications, and self-care practices. 

Medical Procedures

Narrow-band UVB light therapy is a medical procedure that can help alleviate psoriasis. This treatment uses a specific wavelength of light to decrease inflammation and improve the signs and symptoms of psoriasis by killing cells that buildup and cause patches of irritated skin. 

The Derm Institute of West Michigan is proud to offer phototherapy for the treatment of many skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, itching, vitiligo, and more. Phototherapy uses a specific wavelength of light called narrowband ultraviolet B (NBUVB) to treat the skin. It is both safe and effective. Disclaimer: these are not patients at the DIWMI. However, these patients were treated successfully with NBUVB.

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Narrow-band UVB Light Therapy

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Medications

There are a variety of medications that can help with psoriasis. 

  • Topical steroids: These decrease inflammation, resulting in relief of itch and improvement of skin lesions.
  • Immunomodulatory drugs: These prevent inflammation of the skin, joints, and tissue.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D supplements are known to help improve psoriasis to some degree.

Because psoriasis is related to immune dysregulation, newer medications can help normalize the immune system to help improve psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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Self-care Practices

Self care is an important practice whether you have a physical condition or not, but it can significantly help alleviate some of the symptoms of psoriasis and prevent flare ups.

  • Stress management: This could mean anything from exercising to relieve stress to verbalizing frustrations, but there are many other forms of stress management.
  • Lifestyle changes: Weight gain and obesity not only make psoriasis worse, but they tend to make psoriasis medications less effective. Exercising and healthy eating will not only help decrease your symptoms, but they will improve your overall happiness and health.

If you think you may be affected by psoriasis, make sure to download our free Psoriasis At Home Care Guide at the bottom of this page!

And if you would like to discuss your personal situation with a professional, contact our office at 616-326-0114, and we will be glad to assist you. 

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SPECIALISTS

Dermatologists have the most training and experience in treating psoriasis. When choosing a dermatologist to treat your psoriasis, make sure that they are board-certified.

A dermatologist is a doctor with many years of advanced training in correctly identifying conditions that affect the hair, skin, and nails. They are the true experts in diagnosing and treating over 3,000 different skin-related diseases and conditions. A patient would commonly see a dermatologist for issues including, but certainly not limited to: acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, rashes, skin cancer, and wrinkles. They also have advanced training in skin surgeries and cosmetic injections and treatments.

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Dermatologists endure a long road of education and intense training to be able to provide the highest level of care. They began with a 4-year degree at an accredited college, often performing at the top of their class. From there, the budding dermatologist completed 4 years of medical school to become a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). After earning their medical degree, they then completed a year-long internship in medicine, pediatrics, or surgery.

A board-certified dermatologist has completed all of the education requirements listed above, has a state-issued license to practice medicine, and has passed the difficult exams given by the American Board of Dermatology or American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology. Meeting all of these specifications ensures that your dermatologist has the training and expertise to accurately diagnose conditions of the skin, hair, and nails and provide the best possible treatment plan for each patient. Look for the words “board-certified” or the credentials “FAAD” or “FAOCD” to ensure that you are getting the care you deserve.

Dr. Kristi Hawley

If you are located in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area, you're in luck! No need to search far and wide for an award winning board-certified dermatologist to treat you, because Dr. Kristi Hawley has been serving the Grand Rapids community since 2016. She was awarded the Grand Rapids Top Doc and Face of Dermatology 2020 awards, in addition to being nationally recognized for her expertise in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema, and her work with the National Psoriasis Foundation. Dr. Kristi Hawley treats every patient like family by taking the time to understand their skin story and creating a personalized treatment plan.

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FAQ

What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis normally appears as red or pink plaques of raised, thick, scaly skin. These red patches have a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. It is often itchy and painful, which can lead them to crack and bleed. It most commonly affects the skin on the elbows, knees, and scalp, however it can appear anywhere on the body.

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Where does psoriasis come from?

The cause of psoriasis remains unclear, but experts believe it’s a combination of a few things. The immune system does not work properly and causes inflammation. This triggers new skin cells to form too quickly. The buildup of old cells being replaced by new ones creates the scaly skin. Normal skin cells are replaced every 20 to 30 days, while psoriasis patients make new skin cells every 3 to 4 days.

 The cause of the immune system dysfunction is unknown, but it is believed that both genetics and environmental factors play a role.

How does psoriasis spread?

Psoriasis cannot spread from person to person, but it can develop on other parts of your body. It is more likely to spread if it is left untreated, but it isn't spread by scratching or touch. Treatment from a doctor who specializes in psoriasis can significantly reduce the risk that psoriasis will worsen and can make the disease manageable. Also, avoiding triggers will help keep it from spreading to other body parts.

What type of psoriasis do I have?

There are several types of psoriasis , and a dermatologist can help diagnose your type and help determine what treatment option is best for you.

Plaque Psoriasis: Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis. The plaques are referring to the red patches of raised skin with white buildup of dead skin cells.

Guttate: Guttate psoriasis is a form that appears as small, dot-like lesions. Guttate psoriasis often starts in childhood or young adulthood. It can be triggered by a strep throat infection. About 10% of psoriasis patients develop guttate psoriasis.

Inverse: Inverse psoriasis appears as very red lesions in body folds. It commonly shows up behind the knee, under the arm, under the breasts, or in the groin. It can appear shiny and smooth. Typically, people with inverse psoriasis also have a different type of psoriasis on other parts of the body at the same time.

Pustular: Pustular psoriasis shows up as white blisters surrounded by red skin. It most often appears on hands or feet but can appear anywhere on the body. The pustules have noninfectious pus that consists of white blood cells.

Erythrodermic: Erythrodermic psoriasis is a severe form of psoriasis that leads to redness all over the body. It can cause severe itchy and is painful. It is rare and only occurs in about 3% of people with psoriasis.

Unsure of what type of psoriasis you have? Schedule an appointment with Grand Rapids Top Doc and Face of Dermatology for a personalized consultation. Dr. Hawley has been a board-certified dermatologist since 2016, and since then she has become a rash expert and works closely with the National Psoriasis Foundation. She is nationally recognized for her treatment of this condition and has spoken about psoriasis across the nation. If you're looking for the best of the best in treatment of psoriasis, come see us at The Derm Institute of West Michigan.

What causes psoriasis flare-ups?

There are several triggers that can cause flare-ups. These include:

  • Stress
  • Injury to the skin (cuts, sunburns, bug bite)
  • Medications
  • Infections
  • Diet
  • Weather
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Shaving
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Is psoriasis contagious?

Psoriasis is not contagious. You cannot spread it to other people and touching affected skin will not transmit the disease. It isn’t caused by contagious bacteria. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder and genetics and environmental triggers determine if you will develop psoriasis.

Are psoriasis patients immunocompromised?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and it can cause your immune system to attack healthy cells and tissue. The hyperactivity in the immune system can make people with psoriasis more prone to illness, but not necessarily infectious. People with psoriasis are at a greater risk of developing other conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, liver disease, and high blood pressure. Psoriasis patients with any of these conditions are at an increased risk from COVID-19.

*Dr. Hawley recently spoke with Dr. Green of The Dermatologist's Psoriasis Center of Excellence to discuss treatment options for patients with psoriasis and obesity. Check out the full podcast, Pearls in Psoriasis: Dr. Hawley on Treating Patients with Obesity, here!

Psoriasis At Home Care Guide

Psoriasis is not curable, but there are many ways to treat and manage the condition. In addition to the medication and light therapy mentioned above, self-care practices can help ease painful symptoms of psoriasis. Download the Psoriasis At Home Care Guide by filling out the form below!

And again, if you think you may be affected by psoriasis, you are not alone. You do not have to suffer in silence. Dr. Kristi Hawley can help you ease your symptoms and manage this condition. Schedule an appointment and begin your skin journey with Dr. Hawley today!

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Download the Psoriasis At Home Care Guide