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What Is Causing Your Psoriasis?

By

Sarah Lewis, PharmD

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Mid adult woman sitting on the bed and suffering from a headache

If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis—a painful and chronic skin condition—it can be a confusing time. You may wonder why you developed the disease or if you did something to cause it. Keep in mind, psoriasis is not your fault. It may be difficult to pinpoint exactly why it happened to you.

But knowing as much as you can about the condition and why it occurs can help you feel more in control. Here are some things to know about psoriasis and its cause.

The Immune System Connection

Psoriasis can change your life, but these patients are proof that finding the right treatment can put you back in control.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 18, 2017

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Experts don’t know exactly what causes psoriasis. But they do know that it is related to a problem with the immune system. Normally, a type of white blood cell called a T-cell protects our bodies from infection and disease. But in people with psoriasis, these cells are active by mistake. This creates inflammation and speeds up the cycle of cell turnover. 

Typically, our skin cells grow, mature, and fall off the body every 28 to 30 days. But in people with psoriasis, skin cells can mature in as little as three days. And instead of falling off, the skin cells pile up, forming psoriasis plaques or lesions. 

Triggers

In many cases, psoriasis runs in the family. That means you might have inherited genes that cause the immune system to react this way. And this connection seems to be strong. If one parent has psoriasis, a child has about a 10% chance of developing it. The chance increases to 50% if both parents have psoriasis. 

But psoriasis isn’t always inherited. It can also occur in people with no family history. This has lead researchers to believe that developing psoriasis may also involve a trigger. Just like the disease itself, psoriasis triggers vary from person to person. Some possible triggers include:

  • Cold weather
  • Infections, especially strep throat
  • Medicines including lithium, beta blockers, and antimalarial drugs
  • Skin injury or irritation
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Weakened immune system from other diseases

These triggers may also cause flares of psoriasis once you have the condition.

Overcoming the Condition

Although you may have psoriasis, the good news is that you have the ability to help keep it under control. There are many treatment options that can help you reduce symptoms and feel better. These may include topical medications, phototherapy, and drugs you inject or take by mouth. 

Another thing you can do to take control of your psoriasis is minimize flare-ups. Although you could not have prevented the condition, you can learn to identify and try to stay away from things that can cause your psoriasis to flare. Keeping a symptom diary may help you identify your triggers.

Talk with your doctor about how to minimize your triggers and ask about other ways you can feel better. Some people with psoriasis find that positive lifestyle habits, such as eating healthy foods, can help. Remember, staying involved in your care can help you boost your quality of life with psoriasis.

Was this helpful? (16)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 10, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. An Overview of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis. National Psoriasis Foundation. www.psoriasis.org/Document.Doc?id=215.
  2. Psoriasis. Patient Education Institute. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/psoriasis/dm039106.pdf.
  3. Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis in Children. National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/parents/about-psoriasis.
  4. Psoriasis Causes and Known Triggers. National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/causes.
  5. Psoriasis: Causes and Risk Factors. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/causes-risk-factors.html.

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