Psoriasis Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Acitretin

A newly approved systemic derivative of vitamin A (retinoid) used as a therapy in selected severe cases of psoriasis. Brand name Soriatane. Soon to replace etretinate (Tegison).

Anti-inflammatory

A medication used to relieve swelling, redness and pain caused by infection, injury or disease.

Anthralin

A refined derivative of anthracene, originally from a tree bark. The strongest anthralins are used in hospitals or psoriasis day treatment centers.

Antibodies

Special proteins, produced by the body’s immune system, that help fight and destroy viruses, bacteria, and other foreign substances that invade the body.

Antipsoriatic

Medicine used for treating psoriasis.

Autoantibodies

Abnormal antibodies produced against the body’s own tissues.

Autoimmune disease

A disease in which the immune system destroys or attacks a person’s own tissues.

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B

Bioavailability

The degree to which a drug or other substance becomes available to the target body tissue after administration.

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C

Calcipotriene

A synthetic form of vitamin D3 used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate psoriasis. Brand name Dovonex.

Chronic

A medical condition of long duration. Term has nothing to do with the seriousness of the condition.

Corticosteroids

A group of cortisone-like molecules secreted by the adrenal gland. Most often refers to their man-made equivalents.

Cutaneous

Pertaining to the skin.

Cyclosporine

A recently approved (for psoriasis) immunosuppressive systemic drug used for treating severe, recalcitrant cases. Brand name Neoral (new formulation with more predictable bioavailability than Sandimmune).

Cytokines

Chemical messengers in the body that help direct and regulate response and are involved in cell-to-cell communication.

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D

Dermatitis

Inflammation (redness, itching, swelling and other symptoms) of the skin.

Dermis

The layer of skin beneath the epidermis.

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E

Efficacy

Ability to produce the desired effect. Example: Prescription drugs are tested for safety and efficacy.

Emollient

A substance composed of fat or oil that soothes and softens the skin.

Epidermis

The outermost layer of skin.

Epidemiology

The branch of medicine that deals with the study of the causes, distribution, and control of disease in populations.

Erythema

Redness of the skin produced by congestion of the capillaries (tiny blood vessels).

Erythroderma

Abnormal redness of the entire skin surface.

Erythrodermic psoriasis

A form of psoriasis characterized by widespread reddening and scaling of the skin often accompanied by itching or pain. Symptoms may be precipitated by severe sunburn, use of oral steroids, or a drug-related rash.

Etretinate

A systemic derivative of vitamin A used as a therapy in selected severe cases of psoriasis. Brand name Tegison. Soon to be phased out in favor of Soriatane (see Acitretin).

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F

Flare-ups

An abrupt worsening of psoriasis. Example: Psoriasis goes through cycles of flares and remissions.

Folliculitis

An inflammation of the hair follicles (the lining of the hair shaft).

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G

Gene

A unit of inheritance that contains the instructions, or code, that a cell uses to make a specific product, usually a protein. Genes are made of a substance called DNA. They govern every body function and determine inherited traits passed from parent to child.

Goeckerman regimen

Use of coal tar and subsequent ultraviolet B light in a daycare setting.

Genetics

The science of understanding how diseases, conditions, and traits are inherited.

Guttate psoriasis

A form of psoriasis characterized by drop-like lesions on the trunk, limbs, and scalp. Symptoms may be triggered by viral respiratory infections or certain bacterial (streptococcal) infections.

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H

Histologic examination

The study of a tissue specimen by staining it and examining it under a microscope.

Hydration

A gain of water or moisture.

Hydroxvurea

An oral drug that inhibits the development, maturation or spread of cells that reproduce at an abnormally rapid rate.

Hypercalcernia

An excess of calcium in the blood.

Hyperplasia

Abnormal increases in the number of cells in skin tissue.

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I

Immune response

The reactions of the immune system to foreign substances.

Immunosuppressive

A drug that reduces the body’s natural immunity.

Immune system

A complex network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses.

Inflammation

A characteristic reaction of tissues to injury or disease. It is marked by four signs: swelling, redness, heat, and pain.

Inpatient

A patient admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Inverse psoriasis

Psoriasis involving primarily skin folds such as the armpits, under the breasts and the groin. Also called “flexural.”

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K

Keratin

A strong, fibrous protein that is the major component of skin, hair and nails.

Keratinocyte

The skin cell that produces keratin, which constitutes 95% of the epidermis (protective outer layer of the skin).

Keratolytics

Agents that help soften the skin and remove scales.

Koebner Phenomenon

Tendency of psoriasis to appear on traumatized skin.

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M

Macerate

To soften by soaking.

Methotrexate (MTX)

A prescription systemic medication used to treat extensive or disabling psoriasis. Initially used to treat cancer, MTX in low doses is effective in slowing cell production and decreasing inflammation.

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O

Oral

Pertaining to the mouth. An oral medication is taken by mouth.

Outpatient

A patient who visits a hospital or clinic for diagnosis/treatment but is not admitted overnight.

Over-the-counter (OTC)

Refers to medication that can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription.

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P

Photosensitivity

An abnormal sensitivity of the skin to sunlight.

Phototherapy

Treatment of the skin with ultraviolet light.

Phototoxicity

Condition of heightened sunburn response resulting from exposure to ultraviolet light.

Placebo

A substance having no medication that is administered for its psychological effect on a patient. Used as a control in an experiment.

Plaque

Any elevated area of psoriasis.

Prescription

A written direction from a physician for the preparation and administration of a remedy. Required for the purchase of certain medications.

Proliferation

Rapid growth and reproduction of parts, such as cells.

Pruritus

Itching.

Psoralen

A photosensitizing chemical administered orally or topically to increase the skin’s reaction to light for a therapeutic effect.

Psoriasis

A chronic skin disorder marked by itchy, scaly red patches.

Psoriasis day treatment center

Facility in which complex psoriasis treatments such as the Goeckerman regimen can be administered on an outpatient basis.

Pustular psoriasis

Characterized by white pustules (blisters of non-infectious pus) Surrounded by red skin. Affects fewer than 5% of all people with psoriasis.

PUVA

An acronym for the use of psoralen plus ultraviolet light A; used to treat psoriasis and some other skin conditions.

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R

Recalcitrant

Stubbornly resistant to treatment. Example: Recalcitrant psoriasis.

Remission

A period of reduced symptoms; opposite of flare.

Rheumatologist

A physician whose specialty is arthritis.

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S

Salicylic acid

Medication used to help remove excess scales from skin affected by psoriasis.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Dermatitis of the scalp, face, ears and sometimes the chest. Mild cases are known as dandruff.

Stratum corneum

Outermost layer of the epidermis, composed mainly of keratin.

Striae

Linear, scar-like portions of skin, commonly called “stretch marks.” May occur from prolonged use of topical steroids.

Superpotenta

The highest strength classification of corticosteroids (Class 1).

Systemic

Pertaining to or affecting the whole body. Systemic medications are ingested or injected into the body.

Systemic treatment

A treatment, such as a pill, that is taken internally.

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T

Tazarotene

A newly approved topical vitamin A derivative (retinoid) for stable plaque psoriasis and acne. Brand name Tazorac.

Teratogen

A drug or agent that causes abnormal development of a fetus resulting in a birth defect.

Therapeutic

Having the power to improve or heal.

Topical

Pertaining to the surface of the skin. Topical medications are applied to the skin.

Toxicity

The potential of a drug or treatment to cause harmful side effects.

T cell

A type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system and normally helps protect the body against infection and disease. In psoriasis, it also can trigger inflammation and excessive skin cell reproduction.

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U

Ultraviolet light

Light rays beyond the visible light spectrum with the capability of producing photobiological effects on the skin.

UVB phototherapy

An artificial light treatment used for mild psoriasis.

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V

Vulgaris

Ordinary, common, as in “psoriasis vulgaris.”