You probably have a lot of questions!
Psoriasis [sore-eye-a-sis] makes some areas of your skin red, dry and crusty. It can be anywhere on your body, but most often you see it around your elbows, knees and scalp. You may also find it on places that you might not expect, like your upper buttocks (your bottom), your palms, the soles of your feet and your genitals (the private parts of your body).
There are several kinds of psoriasis. The kind you most often see is called "plaque psoriasis". It makes red patches on your skin that are covered with a thin layer of silvery white dead skin cells, called scale.
You cannot "catch" psoriasis from a person who has it, like you could from people who have a cold or other infection. It usually runs in families—so you might have a cousin, or an aunt or uncle, brother or sister who also has psoriasis. You may have gotten psoriasis just like you may have inherited your grandmother's eyes or your father's nose. Psoriasis is just another part of you.
When you have psoriasis, it can seem like you are the only one. But you might want to know that there are many, many people in America that have it, too—millions of them! And, as a kid, you should know that there are about 20,000 kids each year that find out they have psoriasis. Really! You definitely are not alone.
No one knows exactly what causes psoriasis. Scientists have been studying psoriasis for a long time. They are trying to find out what causes it. Most people who study psoriasis believe it has something to do with how your immune system works. What is your immune system? Well, you have several organs and parts of your body that all work together to fight sickness and prevent diseases. These parts of your body send out and receive messages about what to do to fight disease or keep you from getting sick.
Your skin is part of your immune system because it protects the inside of your body from germs and lots of other things on the outside. Your skin is like a big glove that covers your body to keep it safe. You may not know this, but your skin is an organ just like your heart or lungs. In fact, your skin is your biggest organ.
If you could look at your skin under a microscope, you would see that your skin is made up of cells that are like millions of tiny pieces of skin that all stick together. It may seem like you always have the same skin but really, you are getting new skin underneath and having very, very tiny pieces fall off the top all the time.
Usually, it takes almost a month to make skin cells, let them get older and finally have them fall off. But if you have psoriasis that might all happen in just three to four days. That's because when you have psoriasis, your immune system sends out a message to speed up the time it takes to grow skin. So your skin cells in some places don't have time to fall off. They just build up and make those scaly, silvery white patches. The pile of cells makes the skin under it red and itchy.
Visit the National Psoriasis Foundation website at www.psoriasis.org »
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their devastating effects through research, advocacy and education.
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