Psoriasis is a genetic, chronic, inflammatory disease that causes the skin to have patches of raised red skin with thick scales. It may appear on any part of the body but mostly occurs on knees, elbows, neck or scalp. Since it is a genetic disease and not an infection, it is not contagious.
Even though the lying cause of this disease is genetic, it occurs when the person has the genes for it and is exposed to some external factors which are called Psoriasis Triggers. There are various such triggers and some may be beyond the control of the person who has genes that could potentially cause psoriasis.
Scientists have discovered that about 10 percent of the people inherit one or more such genes that are capable of causing this skin disease. But it does not happen to all of these people with such genes, as only 2-3% of the people have actually shown the development of the disease.
Following are the symptoms of Psoriasis:
- Scaly patches, thickened skin
- Dry or cracked patches that may bleed
- Thick or ridged nails
- Swollen or stiff joints
Some people may suffer only some symptoms and mildly while some individuals may suffer from severe symptoms.
What type of Genes causes Psoriasis?
Before getting to the type of genes that cause this condition, it is important to understand what role genes play in our body. Genes basically control most of our characteristics and body functions such as height, eye color, skin color etc. As long as the genes are working normally, the cells work fine too. When something abnormal happens with the genes, diseases such as Psoriasis occur.
Researchers have discovered 25 genetic variants that are capable of developing this disease in people. The National Psoriasis Victor HenschelBioBank has the largest collection DNA associated with Psoriasis. This collection has been available to researchers worldwide since 2010.
There have been many notable discoveries since which have disclosed certain genes in this scenario. Francesca Capon, a British researcher, found that a gene mutation in the gene IL36RN is possibly the cause of three different types of Pustular Psoriasis. At the University of Michigan, researchers found that more than one gene may cause this condition.
The gene CARD14 was discovered to be the potential gene for Psoriasis following a study of genes from a family whose many members had the disease. The study was conducted at the School of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
The genes combined with the triggers cause your cells to become Type A overachievers. They grow five times faster than usual and your body cannot dispose of the old ones that fast. As a result, they pile up, causing thick, scaly, red patches.
What are the Psoriasis Triggers?
If you have the genes for Psoriasis, you might not have the disease until something causes it. Think of these triggers as an ‘on’ switch for these genes to cause the symptoms. Also, a trigger that may cause one person to have flared up skin may not do the same in another person who has the same Psoriasis causing genes.
Here are the triggers that have been established so far:
Injury/Trauma to Skin
Any kind of trauma to the skin like bruises, cuts, bumps, burns, or vaccinations may cause it to flare up wherever the trauma has occurred. This is called Koebner effect in the medical world. Similarly, sunburn can cause Psoriasis flare up symptom too. These are treatable especially when caught in early stages.
Some infections may be the culprit behind small pink droplets called guttate or scaly flared up patches. Infections such as tonsillitis, strep throat, and staph infection have been known to cause this in people with genes related to Psoriasis. It may show up after 2 or 3 weeks after catching the infection.
Cold and Dry Weather
Cold and dry weather can exacerbate the symptoms of Psoriasis. It can cause the flare-up to go even worse. People who have Psoriasis should avoid cold and dry weather and stay hydrated. Those who live in such climates should stay moisturized. On the other hand, the warm and sunny weather has been found to be helpful in reducing the symptoms.
Believe it or not, stress is many times the underlying cause of many medical problems. And when it comes to Psoriasis triggers, stress has made it to that list too. Stress works two ways in case of Psoriasis, if you are stressed it may trigger the disease and when you have the symptoms, you get even more stressful. In that case, the symptoms get worse. So stress is pretty harmful to people who are prone to this skin condition.
Alcohol and Smoking
Consuming alcohol may also increase the possibility of the genes acting up and causing the flare-up in the skin. Another reason why people with Psoriasis symptoms should avoid alcohol is that the medication you take for this kind of condition may not work with alcohol.
Researchers have also found that smoking can also play the same effect and increase the flare-up. If you smoke, you will notice the patches on your hands and feet to get scaly and flare up.
Some medications have been found to cause Psoriasis:
- Medicines containing lithium have been known to cause symptoms in at least half the people who have the associated genes. Lithium is commonly used to treat psychiatric disorders.
- Medication taken to fight malaria may also cause the flare up like Quinacrine, Plaquenil, and chloroquine. The symptoms show up after 2-3 weeks of taking such medications. Hydroxychloroquine may also cause the symptoms but it is the least likely one to do so.
- Quinidine which is a cardiac medication has been found to worsen Psoriasis.
- Inderal which is taken for high blood pressure causes at least 25 percent of the individuals who are vulnerable to this disease to get the symptoms. Other blood pressure medications may potentially have the same effect too but it has not been established yet.
- The drug, Indomethacin, which is used to treat arthritis, has made the symptoms worse in some cases. If taken in small quantities, the chances of the trigger are lowered.
If you have the genes that are triggered because of skin trauma, do not get tattoos at all. The repeated piercing can cause the worst kind of Psoriasis. In fact, new sores start appearing in a matter of days after you have a tattoo done.
Hormonal changes in the body can also cause the disease to show up. For example, during pregnancy, a woman may not have any flare-ups but during the post-natal period the symptoms can show up. Similarly, periods like puberty or menopause are also likely to cause the flare-ups.
Avoiding Psoriasis Triggers
If you know you have the genes that cause Psoriasis, you should know about all the possible triggers and try your best to avoid them. It will depend mostly on the kind of conditions you live in and what your own habits are. But if precautions are taken, you can avoid the severe kind of symptoms or any symptoms altogether.
- Keep your body hydrated and moisturized in winters. Use lotions and creams made for sensitive skin like yours.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or smoking at all or at least when the symptoms start showing up.
- Do not stress yourself in any condition especially when you are experiencing flare-ups or scaly patches.
- Before taking medication for other diseases, make sure to check with your physician first. Ensure that the components of the medications are none of those that are a trigger.
- In case of an injury or trauma to the skin, see your physician and start taking the prescribed medication.
It is estimated that 7.5 million people in the United States have plaque psoriasis. It is one of those conditions that can cause stress, discomfort and deteriorate your health in the long term. Those who have psoriatic arthritis have inflammation in their joints which can ultimately result in complete damage to the joints.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that is caused by certain genes and triggers that cause those genes to work abnormally. The flared up, scaly and itchy patches on the skin can be very discomforting and even painful when severe. Over 25 different genes have been found to be the underlying cause but the real trouble is caused by triggers such as stress, cold weather, infections or skin injury.
It is important to note that not all individuals may experience the same reaction from the triggers. Nevertheless, it is important to know what the triggers are and what damage they could do, and if you so happen to have a trigger, what treatment you can take.
Psoriasis should be taken seriously as it can potentially lead to something even more severe like pustular psoriasis. Thanks to research, we have identified many of the genes and triggers that cause such a condition in some individuals. However, more research is underway and in future, we will likely know even more about the causes and prevention.
Hello, I’m Jean, a passionate health enthusiast and personal trainer. After diagnosed with psoriasis in 2002 and struggling to keep it under control, I decided to write about my personal experiences and issues that relate to psoriasis in 2007. Through my writing, I hope to provide answers to questions about this disease and how it can be controlled.