Scientists know that the onset of psoriasis is tied to genetic as well as environmental factors. While more than a dozen genes are believed to be linked to psoriasis, simply having the genes for psoriasis is not enough to trigger the condition.
Currently it is thought that about 10% of the population has the genetic make-up to provide for the onset of psoriasis, yet we see only 2-3% of the population actually develop the condition. So another factor is believed to be involved. This factor is referred to as "environmental," and while research shows that genetics play a much greater role than the environment in increasing the risk for developing the condition, both factors are important. Psoriasis studies involving identical and fraternal twins show that the incidence of twins both developing psoriasis occurs at a significantly lower rate in Australia than in the US, suggesting that environmental factors do have an important role to play in the onset of the disease. (The sun is stronger in Australia, and as sunlight is known to improve the condition, an interaction is believed to be taking place.)
And what do we mean by environmental factors? These can be related to the actual physical environment (as in the study above involving Australian twins) but can also include various external factors (i.e., those that are non-genetic) such as exposure to infection or stress; smoking; alcoholism; harsh soaps; an injury; or a reaction to certain medications.
Experts do know that psoriasis tends to run in families, and the risk of developing the condition is higher if a close family member develops the disease. Research into the genetic and hereditary component of psoriasis continues. If you have psoriasis, you and your family may wish to participate in studies to help further research. If so, talk to your doctor about what's involved and how to find more information.
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