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Your Genes and Psoriasis

Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 11, 2020

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that can run in families. Your skin cells grow too quickly and pile up into bumps and thick scaly patches called plaques.

You’re more likely to get psoriasis if your blood relatives also have it. That’s because certain genes play a role in who gets the condition.

Genes and Psoriasis

Genes are like blueprints inside every cell in your body. They tell your hair to grow black or blond, determine your height, and are the reason why you have high arches or wide feet.

Faulty genes can also sometimes cause things to go wrong. Your heart might grow in the wrong way, or you might get such conditions as autism or Parkinson’s disease.

Rarely, that happens because of a single problematic gene. But more often it results from a mix of different genes and things in the environment like your diet, exposure to pollution, and stress.

That seems to be the case with psoriasis. Researchers so far have identified more than two dozen genes that may contribute to the disease. In some cases, scientists even can link a particular gene to specific types of psoriasis, including pustular, guttate, and plaque.

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Even if you have any of these genes, you’re not very likely to get psoriasis. About 1 in 10 people have at least some of the genes that raise the risk for psoriasis. But only 2% of the population has the disease. On the flip side, you still can get psoriasis without having the genes that may cause it.

So what accounts for the differences? Research continues, but scientists believe things in the environment may be a key contributor to psoriasis.

Environmental Factors

It’s not always clear what triggers certain genes to start the faulty immune response that leads to an outbreak of psoriasis. But researchers think the list may include:

Future Treatments

Scientists are learning more about exactly which genes cause psoriasis and how they activate in different people. That could pave the way for new or improved treatments. For example, certain types of drugs or therapies may better ease symptoms. Or they may prevent psoriasis by blocking the link between your immune system and the faulty genes.

Some of the new medicine may work better for everyone. Others might be drugs that your doctors customize for you based on your genes, environment, and possible triggers.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology: “Psoriasis.”

Medscape: “Psoriasis.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Genes and psoriasis.”

Mary Spraker, MD, dermatologist, The Emory Clinic.

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