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Psoriasis (cont.)

What Are Psoriasis Causes and Risk Factors?

Research indicates that the disease results from a disorder in the inflammatory system. In psoriasis, T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) abnormally trigger inflammation in the body. These T cells also stimulate skin cells to grow faster than normal and to pile up in raised plaques on the outer surface of the skin.

Those with a family history of psoriasis have an increased chance of having the disease. Some people carry genes that make them more likely to develop psoriasis. When both parents have psoriasis, their offspring have a 50% chance of developing psoriasis. About one-third of those with psoriasis can recall at least one family member with the disease.

Certain risk factors may trigger psoriasis.

  • Injury to the skin: Injury to the skin has been associated with plaque psoriasis. For example, a skin infection, skin inflammation, or even excessive scratching can trigger psoriasis.
  • Sunlight: Most people generally consider sunlight to be beneficial for their psoriasis and therapeutic phototherapy is a treatment option. However, a small minority find that strong sunlight aggravates their condition. A bad sunburn may worsen psoriasis.
  • Streptococcal infections: Streptococcal sore throats may trigger guttate psoriasis, a type of psoriasis that looks like small red drops on the skin.
Guttate psoriasis. Red drop-like lesions are found on the skin. This type of psoriasis usually occurs after a streptococcal (bacterial) infection.
Guttate psoriasis. Red drop-like lesions are found on the skin. This type of psoriasis usually occurs after a streptococcal (bacterial) infection. Image courtesy of Hon Pak, MD.

  • HIV: Psoriasis may worsen after an individual has been infected with HIV.
  • Drugs: A number of medications have been shown to aggravate psoriasis. Some examples are as follows:
  • Emotional stress: Many people note worsening of their psoriasis when emotionally stressed.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smokers have an increased risk of chronic plaque psoriasis.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is considered a risk factor for psoriasis. Even moderate intake of beer may trigger or worsen psoriasis.
  • Hormonal changes: The severity of psoriasis may fluctuate with hormonal changes. Disease frequency peaks during puberty and menopause. During pregnancy, psoriatic symptoms are more likely to improve. In contrast, flares occur in the postpartum period.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/19/2017

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Psoriasis »

Psoriasis is a chronic, noncontagious, multisystem, inflammatory disorder.

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