Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition affecting the scalp, skin or even joints.
In most cases, skin cells mature and shed after about four weeks. In psoriasis, the cell maturation speeds up, taking only about three to four days. Since the lower layer of skin cells divide more rapidly than normal, dead cells accumulate in thicker patches on the skin's outermost layer (called the epidermis).
Psoriasis is not contagious. Normal skin cells are replaced every 28 days, however in psoriasis, skin cells are replaced every three to six days. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but the body's defense system (immune system) is believed to be involved.
Scalp psoriasis occurs in a variety of forms that differ in their intensity, duration, location, shape and pattern of scales. The most common forms are:
- Plaque psoriasis (or psoriasis vulgaris) - the most common form. Characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered with a silvery-white buildup of dead skin cells (or scales), it is found primarily on the elbows, knees, scalp and finger or toe nails.
- Pustular psoriasis - a rare form characterized by small pustules (whitehead-like lesions) found all over the body or confined to the palms, soles and other isolated areas of the body.
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