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OUR HEALTH expert.

Byline: Dr JOANNA LONGSTAFFE

Clinical director of the Independent General Practice answers your medical queries Q I've just started a new job and am a little bit concerned that one of my colleagues suffers quite severely with psoriasis and has patches of scaly skin on both arms. We work quite closely together and while he's a really nice guy, I'm worried that it might be contagious. Please can you give me a bit more information about the condition? A Psoriasis is a condition which affects the skin, the most common form being plaque psoriasis which appears to be what you're describing here. It causes red, dry and flaky patches of skin with a scaly appearance to develop in certain areas - most commonly around elbows, knees or on the back but it can actually affect any area of the body.

It is often itchy and uncomfortable for the sufferer but it is not infectious so you won't 'catch' psoriasis from your colleague.

Other types of the condition include scalp and nail psoriasis, inverse psoriasis which appears in areas of the body where skin 'creases' and also guttate psoriasis, which can be brought on in the aftermath of a streptococcal throat infection.

Psoriasis is a condition which affects around 2% of people in the UK (upwards of 80% of these being affected by plaque psoriasis) and can occur at any age, although it's most likely to develop from the teenage years onwards and less likely to occur once past the age of 50.

There isn't a definitive cause for psoriasis but certain factors are known to play a part. These include problems within the immune system - which sees healthy skin cells being attacked by mistake and leading to the production of more and more new skin cells at a faster pace than would normally be the case.

Due to the enforced faster cycle, these new skin cells are being created and then dying in a far shorter timescale than would be normal and the body cannot keep up. The build-up of these dead cells creates the aforementioned scaly patches.

There are also genetic links as many cases of psoriasis run in families so if a close relative is a sufferer, there's a chance that you may develop it too - you won't definitely be affected but it appears more likely if family members have it that you will develop symptoms.

Symptoms of psoriasis can be triggered by many different things and vary from person to person but some of the more common triggers include stress, an injury to the skin such as a cut or bite, smoking and alcohol and also certain prescribed medications.

I'm sure that your colleague will have visited his GP about this condition and if so will probably be undergoing treatment to try and limit the regularity and impact of any flare ups but the best thing he can hope for from colleagues is a level of understanding regarding the condition so it's good that you've taken the time to find out a bit more.

While it looks unsightly and can of course be particularly uncomfortable for the sufferer, it can't be passed on but people suffering with it often lose confidence and their self-esteem can take a battering purely because of its physical appearance and the perception that people are avoiding them in case they catch it themselves.

This can lead to anxiety and in the worse cases, the onset of depression so please be mindful of this and pass on to any other colleagues who may be worried that they could be at risk.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 11, 2012
Words:597
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