Red spots that tend to desquamate at the elbows and/or knees, persistent dandruff in the hair, desquamation and/or thickening in the palm of the hands and the soles of the feet: are all symptoms of psoriasis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks cytokines, small proteins present on the skin, joints, liver, adipose tissue and arterial endothelium that covers the inner surface of blood vessels.

As Professor Antonio Costanzo, Head of Dermatology at Humanitas, explained in a recent interview: “This reaction of our defenses takes place in genetically predisposed subjects. Today we know at least 36 genes that increase the risk of developing the disease. This inflammatory reaction is directed against the skin, which reacts with the hyper proliferation of keratin-producing cells, which is then the visible effect. Moreover, the spots are red because they are inflamed”.


What are the causes of psoriasis?

Family history is one of the main causes: if a patient with psoriasis has a child, the child will be at greater risk of becoming ill. Environmental factors such as interaction with certain drugs, situations that trigger emotional stress or trauma are also involved.


How is it diagnosed?

Due to the specificity of the symptoms, the dermatologist is generally able to make the diagnosis during a specialist examination. In some cases, for psoriasis in its initial or unclear form, a skin biopsy may be useful.


How is psoriasis treated?

“We have been able to identify the key molecules in the process of developing psoriasis and have thus developed drugs that block only these molecules: TNF, interleukin 17 and interleukin 23. The administration of antibodies to these cytokines regresses the symptoms of psoriasis. When the spots reappear, therapy can be repeated.

The condition of life improves significantly, also because it is a treatment that the patient can do alone at home and the skin is free from visible manifestations of the disease. This is a decisive step forward compared to traditional drugs, which, as systemic immunosuppressants, act on the entire immune system, also with important side effects,” concluded Prof. Costanzo.