Causes of Psoriasis
While the exact cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, scientists believe psoriasis is the result of several factors, including genetics, environmental factors, and the immune system.
Genetics play a significant role in the development of psoriasis, though scientists are not fully sure to what extent. One out of 3 people with psoriasis report having a relative with the disease, and it’s believed that up to 10% of the general population may inherit one or more genes that predispose them to develop psoriasis. However, only 2% to 3% actually develop the disease.
For the 2% to 3% of people that develop psoriasis, scientists believe that certain environmental factors trigger the psoriasis genes, causing the disease to become active.
These environmental “triggers” vary from person to person, and what causes psoriasis to develop in one person may have no effect on someone else. Some established triggers known to start psoriasis include:
- Injury to skin (cuts, scrapes, bug bites, severe sunburns)
- Infection (such as strep throat or thrush)
- Certain medications (including lithium, antimalarials, iodides, and certain beta blockers used to treat high blood pressure)
Other triggers, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, cold weather, diet, and allergies may worsen existing psoriasis symptoms or cause flare-ups.
One of the key factors in the cause of psoriasis is an overactive immune system. When you have psoriasis, your immune system attacks healthy skin cells, as if it were fighting off an infection. This triggers more healthy cells to be produced than normal, and those excess cells get pushed to the surface of your skin too quickly. So instead of your skin cells taking weeks to cycle through your body, they take days. Because your body can’t shed skin cells at that rapid a rate, the cells build up on the surface of your skin.
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