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Although there's no cure for psoriasis, you don't have to let it control your life. Take charge by learning as much as you can about the disease, and work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that brings relief.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis seems to run in families. It's caused when your immune system, the body's defense against germs, doesn't work the way it should.

When it's working right, your immune system fights infections and heals injuries with white blood cells. If you have psoriasis, though, one type of white blood cell, the B-cell, creates antibodies that destroy normal skin cells. Meanwhile, another type of white blood cell, the T-cell, begins making too much of a protein called a cytokine. This seems to turn off a signal that controls the growth of skin cells.

Skin cells are always being formed deep beneath the surface of your skin. Over about a month, these cells die and flake off, making way for new skin cells.

If you have psoriasis, your broken immune system causes this cell turnover to happen in days instead of weeks. Layers of skin build up. Blood flow increases in an attempt to nourish this skin, which leads to redness and swelling. You get reddened, inflamed skin with a whitish, flaky crust of dead cells on top.

How Psoriasis Can Affect You

You may get patches of itchy, scaly, or inflamed skin called plaques. Though they can appear anywhere, you're most likely to get them on your:

  • Knees
  • Elbows
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Scalp
  • Back
  • Belly button

You may also get pits in your fingernails and toenails. About half of people with active psoriasis do. Up to 30% also get psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in and around your joints.

Keep in mind that your experience may be very different from someone else's. There's a lot of variety in how severe the symptoms are.

You don't have to let psoriasis affect your social life. It's important to keep your skin condition from hurting your self-esteem. So don't avoid dates, social events, or job interviews. If you feel like you're getting depressed, talk to your doctor or a counselor.

Is Your Psoriasis Treatment on Target for You?

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