Psoriasis – Where the Cell Went Wrong!

Those who suffer from psoriasis know it as an irritating, recurring skin condition that can be both unsightly and debilitating. Few however understand the reason behind it….why they have itchy, red patches over their body covered with silvery scales.

To understand psoriasis and where the psoriatic cell has gone wrong we first must understand the formation of the normal cell. The initial cell formation of the skin starts in the basal layer or at the base of the skin.

Once formed the cell makes its way to the epidermis or skin surface where it sloughs off and is replaced by new skin cells forming below. In the normal cell this entire process from production, growth and gradual hardening to shedding takes approximately one month.

Goes through the process in 4 days!

The psoriatic cell on the other hand goes through this entire process in less than four days. So from developing in the skin’s basal layer to being shed on the skin’s epidermis it has insufficient time to form properly, or pass through the normal process of skin maturation and keratinization.

Keratinization is the process by which the insoluble, fibrous structure of the skin is formed. This produces a build up of dead cells on the surface of the skin commonly known as the scales of psoriasis.

The end result is the formation of thick scaly plaques which do not provide the skin with its usual protective layers. If the silvery scales are scraped away the dark red base of the lesion is exposed resulting in multiple bleeding points.

This is because the outer cells of the skin which provide it with its protective layer are non living and do not have a blood supply. However the underlying skin layers have a blood supply and will bleed when exposed.

So why does psoriasis only affect some people?

The underlying cause is unknown. However, it can be genetically inherited or passed from generation to generation. Initial lesions tend to form in areas of skin trauma (i.e. sunburn or streptococcal infection).

These areas are believed to be “trigger” points in people with a genetic predisposition. Having said this it must be understood that psoriasis is not an infection and it is not contagious.

Mel Sinclair, RN