“At points in my life, psoriasis covered me from head to toe. It really embarrassed me,” Bridget, a producer in New York, says. “I would try to wear long sleeves and pants in summer, or style my hair in ways so the flakes weren't as visible on my scalp, but nothing really worked. I would feel so self-conscious, especially before dates when it was hot out and I was dressed for winter.”
Two to three percent of the global population experiences psoriasis, according to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, and while that percentage may seem low, it equates to more than 200 million people. But unless you live with the condition, it is rarely talked about.
“Psoriasis is a systemic, immune-mediated disorder,” Dr. Hadley King, board-certified dermatologist says. This autoimmune disease is an inflammatory skin condition in which skin cells fail to mature properly, which causes them to keep proliferating. Psoriasis often manifests as a rash that’s covered in a white or silvery substance that looks a bit like yeast (though it’s not), that can appear anywhere on the body. This is how plaque psoriasis, the most common manifestation of the condition, presents, but there are other types that show up slightly differently on the body, including guttate (a rash and peeling), pustular (pus-filled bumps), inverse (a smooth, shiny rash), and erythrodermic (a peeling rash across the whole body).
Psoriasis can be a serious and frustrating condition. But understanding what it is and the treatments and lifestyle changes that may help calm your flare-ups is the first step to taking back control of your skin.
What Triggers Psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis and the triggers for individual episodes are unknown, as Bridget experienced. “I never knew when or why I was going to get a flare-up,” she tells me.