Psoriasis: When Is Dry Skin A Sign Of Disease?

Among the many challenges that accompany winter, dry skin is a common problem. Due to a drop in humidity levels, you are simply more prone to dried, irritated skin which can include signs like redness and flakes.

But when is your dry skin a sign of a chronic condition known as psoriasis? Unlike the wintertime scenario mentioned above, psoriasis is not seasonal in nature. It is regarded as an inflammatory disease since the problem is related to the immune system.

In the United States, a little over 2 percent of the population — or an estimated 7.5 million Americans— have psoriasis. While stress, obesity, infections, and habits like smoking can increase one's risk, family history is believed to be the biggest risk factor as it is often passed on to children by parents.

Psoriasis is characterized by a reduced life cycle of the human skin cells. While our cells are normally replaced once a month on average, a person with psoriasis can have new cells develop every three to four days.

This buildup of excess skin cells leads to the development of plaques. These plaques are pink or red raised patches of skin covered with white or silver scales. This is the most common form of the condition, known as plaque psoriasis. 

While the plaques can appear anywhere on the body, patients often report their occurrence on the scalp, elbows, knees, lower back, and genitals. The affected patches of skin can be extremely itchy and painful, even prone to cracking and bleeding. When large areas of skin are affected, one may also experience joint pain. 

Previously, experts have discussed how skin conditions like acne can make a person feel anxious, isolated and self-conscious, taking a toll on their well-being. The case is no different for patients of psoriasis who may feel embarrassed about the appearance of their skin. 

"It’s a real problem. A condition that’s visible like this is a disease that can change how people view you. It can change how you present yourself and even what you wear," Jennifer C. Cather, M.D., a dermatologist at Modern Dermatology-Aesthetics Center, told SELF. Though psoriasis is not contagious, the misconception that it is, can also affect the self-image of patients. 

If these signs sound familiar, it is possible that you may have psoriasis. It is recommended that you see a dermatologist who will help diagnose the condition. 

Though there is no cure as of yet, treatment is available which focuses on reducing inflammation according to Gary Goldenberg, M.D., a dermatologist based in New York City. He explained to Women's Health Mag that many patients "can be almost completely cleared of their symptoms" with the help of steroid cream, pills, biologic injections, and even dietary changes.