Is Psoriasis Genetic?

Psoriasis can attack an individual at any age, but it most commonly appears between 15 and 35 years of age. It has been found in people with no family history of the disease, but having a family member who has it increases one’s risk. So, is psoriasis genetic?

Understanding Psoriasis:

Psoriasis is a disease that presents itself as a skin malady and affects about 7.5 million people in the United States. Although it exhibits itself through the skin, it begins inside the immune system, right from the T-cells that are designed to protect the body from diseases and infection. The immune cells mistakenly attack other body cells, leading to the skin condition. It mostly affects the knees, elbows, scalp, and palms of the hands, lower back, and soles of the feet.

Scientists and researchers who have worked on establishing if psoriasis is genetic assume that the most important predisposing factor of the condition is a malfunction of the immune system. Their findings show that skin that is suffering from psoriasis has a large number of inflammatory elements known as cytokines produced by the immune cells.

The findings also showed that psoriatic skin also has alleles, which are gene mutations responsible for passing the disease through generations in a family. However, further research shows that the presence of alleles was not a sufficient reason for psoriasis to develop to its full-blown condition.

More advanced techniques have been applied in trying to establish the cause of psoriasis, leading to the identification of human genetic material (the genome) in about 25 different regions. Genetic research indicates the risk a person is exposed to in contracting psoriasis. However, the relationship between the genes linked to the disease and the disease itself, is not yet understood.

Risk factors:

People who have psoriasis get occasional outbreaks followed by a period of cutback. A certain percentage of these people experience inflammation of the joints, a condition known as psoriatic arthritis. Specific environmental factors trigger a flare-up of psoriasis. They include:

  • Dry and cold weather - dry and cold weather strips moisture from the skin, and warming elements make the condition worse. It is more advisable to invest in a humidifier instead.
  • HIV Infection
  • Intake of drugs such as antimalarial, beta-blockers used to manage high blood pressure, and lithium. They interfere with the autoimmune system and can cause a severe attack.
  • Corticosteroids withdrawal
  • Injury or trauma to the skin through bites or scratches. Bug bites, cuts, or scrapes may cause new psoriasis lesions around the affected area.
  • Infections like strep throat infection especially in young people, upper respiratory infections, and thrush can trigger a psoriatic outbreak.
  • Food-related triggers - people with psoriasis may want to avoid fatty foods, milk, and gluten
  • Alcohol intake - there is an increase of psoriatic condition in people who consume beer at least three times per week.
  • Too much exposure to sunlight - moderate amounts of sunlight can relieve the symptoms, but sunburn only serves to make the situation worse.
  • Stress - psoriasis is made worse by emotional and physical stress. However, yoga and meditation are good practices that can help relieve stress associated with the condition.
  • Too much weight - being overweight makes the symptoms of psoriasis worse. A low-calorie diet is useful in helping manage the condition
  • Smoking - tobacco worsens the symptoms and increases the risk of psoriasis

Signs and symptoms:

The symptoms of psoriasis are anything between mild and severe, and they are sometimes on and off. They include:

  • Dry, flaky, and cracked patches on the skin that can sometimes bleed.
  • Thick, pitted, or grooved nails.
  • Rigid and swollen joints
  • Scratchy, scaly patches of stiffened skin

Causes of Psoriasis:

The causes of psoriasis are yet to be established. Is psoriasis genetic? This is a question that many researchers have been trying to answer and their findings point to a high possibility of the condition being genetic. However, since there is more than one gene involved in giving rise to the disease, the real cause has been difficult to establish. This is also because the condition has been found in people who have no family history of the disease.

How to treat Psoriasis:

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for psoriasis, but several effective treatments can be used to manage the condition.

Contemporary treatments

There are creams or ointments which when applied to the psoriatic skin can provide some relief. They can help in:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Inhibiting the rate of skin turnover
  • Soothing the skin
  • Suppressing the immune system

Light therapy

Too much sunshine is not recommendable, but moderate exposure to the sun can help in easing the symptoms. Similarly, you can make use of artificial ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis, but under the supervision of a doctor.

Systemic treatment

Your doctor might prescribe injections and oral medicine to help deal with the condition. This kind of intervention is more effective and is known as the systemic approach.

Combination therapy

It is different from systemic treatment in that a doctor applies a little of each treatment approach, which works well depending on how the patient adheres to the treatments. The advantage is that you get to use lower doses of each treatment option.

When is emergency treatment necessary?

When more than 80% of the body is covered with scaly, flaking, and red patches of skin, emergency treatment will be the only option you have. In such a situation, you will experience a lot of itching and pain and may call for a stay in the hospital to avoid worsening of the condition or skin infections arising from the itchiness.

Prevention:

Since it is impossible to change the gene make-up, the most effective way to prevent psoriasis from flaring up is to avoid the triggers that predispose you to an attack.

  • Reduce stress - stress can happen to anyone, but it is more problematic to people with psoriasis.
  • Take care of the skin - use sunscreen while outdoors and wear protective clothing
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet
  • Get help as soon as signs and symptoms of psoriasis begin to show.

While genetic factors are known to be the leading cause of psoriasis, it is important to take precaution against exposing the skin to factors that can worsen the condition. With proper management, you can comfortably live your life and carry on with day-to-day activities.