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  You are here: Home > Glossary > Glossary of Dermatology Terms

Glossary of Dermatology Terms

Following is a glossary of dermatology terms used on this website. Please click on the alphabet to go to the particular word in the glossary of dermatology 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



Abscess:  A collection of neutrophils in the epidermis, hair follicles, eccrine glands, dermis or subcutaneous tissue.

Acanthosis:  Increased thickness of the spinous layer of the epidermis as a result of an increase in number or size (or both) of the epidermal cells. Seen in psoriasis, epidermal nevus etc.acanthosis nigricans picture

Acanthosis nigricans: Acanthosis nigricans  is a skin disorder characterised by thickening, pigmentation and a fine or rough velvety appearance, particularly over body folds. It can be caused by a variety of causes.

Acne : Acne is an inflammatory disease of the pilo(hair)-sebaceous unit of the skin causing pimples called black heads and white heads.

Allergen ( Syn.Antigen) Any substance , called  antigen, which when introduced into the  body, produces allergic reactions through Immunoglobulin E (IgE) formation.

Allergy: A term covering immune reactions to  antigens, which leads to inflammation and other local and systemic adverse effects.

Alternative medicine:
Systems of medicine other than the modern medicine. Most of them have no scientific basis and survive on the psychosomatic basis of diseases.

Alopecia   : Loss of Hair due to any causes.

Alopecia Areata  : Circumscribed, patchy hair loss.

Anthralin: A substance that is used in topical treatment of psoriasis.  It can be used in conjunction with phototherapy.

anthrax pictureAnthrax  : The name "anthrax" comes from the Greek word for "coal". This refers to the typical, characteristic black crust on the skin lesions caused by anthrax bacillus. This lesion is known as the "Malignant Pustule".

Antibody: A type of protein, called an immunoglobulin, which is produced in response to a specific antigen; to destroy or interact with the antigen. This is the defense mechanism of the body.

Antigen: A substance, usually a protein, which causes the formation of an antibody and produces an allergic immune response in the body. They are called immunogens when they trigger immune response, or haptens when they do not.

Antigen-presenting cell (APC): A special type of cell, with a cell surface major histocompatibility complex molecules known as  HLA , which receive, process and present antigens to the   helper T cells. Macrophage and  dendritic cells, langerhans cells etc are examples of antigen presenting cells.

Antigen receptor: The antigen-binding receptor on T or B lymphocytes.

Aphthous Ulcer : Also known as Canker Sore or recurrent aphthous stomatiti. It is a common disorder, characterized by recurrent, painful ulceration of the oral mucosa.

Arthritis, psoriatic:  is a specific type of arthritis, which is usually associated with psoriasis. It causes pain and inflammation in and around the joints.

Athletes Foot Athlete's Foot is a superficial fungal infection of the feet also known as Tinea pedis. It is a common infection during summer months in tropical climates and also in monsoon period when the feet are always wet. 

Atopic dermatitis (Syn. Atopic eczema): An allergic skin disorder that is characterized by itching, scaling, thickening of the skin, and usually located on the face, elbows, knees, and arms. An immune mediated illness, which usually starts in early childhood.

Atrophy, epidermal: Thinning of the epidermis due to decrease in size of spinous cells. Rete ridges are flattened and dermal papillae are obliterated. Seen in  lichen sclerosus et atrophicus, discoid lupus erythematosus etc. Also seen in skin treated with topical corticosteroids.

Auspitz sign: When the scales are scrapped off the skin, fine bleeding points become visible, this is known as Auspitz Sign and is diagnostic of psoriasis.

Autoimmunity (Syn.autoallergy): An allergic immune response to 'self' tissues, a mistake on part of the body's immune system which confuses the body's own tissues  as 'foreign' and organize defensive actions through the production of antibodies. Such an immune response may have pathological effects and  lead  to 'autoimmune' diseases.

Autoimmune disease: An illness that occurs when the body cells or tissues are attacked by its own immune system. Normally,  the  immune system  recognize and destroy  invaders(antigens) of the body.. These include infectious agents . Patients with autoimmune diseases have circulating auto-antibodies  that are formed against their own body elements.

According to the autoimmune hypothesis, psoriasis may also be an autoimmune disease, where by activated T lymphocytes (auto-antibodies) are produced against the keratinocytes, the epidermal cells. Some other autoimmune diseases are: systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto thyroiditis, , juvenile  diabetes, scleroderma, Addison disease etc.

Auto antibodies: Special antibodies produced against the body's own cells and  tissues.

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Basal Cell Layer: The lowest germinative  layer of the epidermis. Basal cells are responsible for producing the new squamous cells or keratinocytes of the epidermis. This is an ongoing process.

Medications that are commonly prescribed for lowering blood pressure, relieving pain due to cardiac causes(angina). These drugs may  trigger or aggravate psoriasis.

A relaxation technique in which people are taught to control a few selected bodily functions like sweating, blood pressure or heart rate, which are usually considered involuntary. Feed back suggestions are given, and these act through the autonomic nervous system to produce the desired effects.

Biological Therapies: Recently, new biological therapies have been introduced giving new hope to people with psoriasis. What is unique about biologic treatments is that they pinpoint certain immune responses that are involved in psoriasis, not the entire immune system, thereby creating fewer side effects than conventional immunosuppressant drugs. At present, though, these new medications are very costly.

Biopsy: The removal of a small piece of body tissue for examination under a microscope for the purpose of studying the histo-pathological changes in a disease.

Black Eye  : Black eye is caused by contusion or seeping of the blood beneath the lax skin around the eyes caused by blunt injury to the area..

Blister: Blister (vesicle/bulla): A cavity filled with fluid. It may contain tissue fluid, plasma or blood and is often associated with inflammatory cells.

Boil (syn. Furuncle): Painful, swollen lesions that form around hair follicles due to inflammation and infection.

Broadband light therapy: It offers a broad range of UVB light (280 nm to 315 nm) from a light source, used to treat psoriasis and some other skin conditions like vitiligo.  See also narrow band light therapy.

Bruises  : Bruises, or contusions as they are known in medical jargon, are the consequence of mild bleeding under the skin. Bruises can occur due to direct pressure or blunt injuries to the body. Some bruises are superficial while other are painful and swollen.

Bulla(Syn.Blister): Localized, fluid collection, more than 0.5 cm in diameter, a large vesicle.

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Calcipotriene(Calcipotriol in some countries): A synthetic form of vitamin D3, used topically to treat psoriasis.

Canker Sores  : These are also known as Aphthous ulcer or recurrent aphthous stomatitis. It is a common disorder, characterized by recurrent, painful ulceration of the oral mucosa. It affects around 15-20% of the population.

Candidiasis: A skin and mucous membrane infection caused by a yeast known as Candida albicans that can occur in the skin folds, navel, vagina, penis, mouth, and nail beds. Usually seen in people with reduced immune status like diabetes, treatment with cortico steroids, cancers, HIV infection etc.

Cell: A cell contains all of the genetic information it takes to make a living being. The cell is the basic unit of the tissues which make up the organs of the body. The cell contains a central nucleus and surrounding cytoplasm. The cell nucleus contains 23 pairs of chromosomes (one half of each pair is inherited from each parent) which carries the genetic information.

Cell cycle: This is a cyclical process through which a newly formed cell become a mature cell. In psoriasis the cell cycle time is reduced to 100 hours instead of the normal 200 hours.

Chapped Hands : Chapped hands  are nothing but dry, cracked skin of the palms. This commonly occurs due to drying of the hand following excessive water and detergent exposure. 

Chapped Lips  : Chapped lips  are the results of extreme drying and cracking of the lips. The lips lack normal sebaceous gland which provide oiliness for the skin else where.

Cheilitis  Inflammation of lips causing drying and scaling of varying degrees.

Chemotaxis: Migration of cells from one place to other, usually due to a difference in concentration or chemical gradient .

Chicken Pox  : Chickenpox or Varicella is caused by varicella zoster virus.The disease begins as a mild febrile disease resembling a common cold with fever and body pain. In 1-2 days, there is an erythematous eruption behind ears, neck and body. These within one day bloom into itchy vesicles. These eruptions occur successive eruptions over 3-7 days with the whole disease course consisting of 3 to 4 such waves of eruptions.

Chromosome: Chromosomes carry the genetic information of an individual. It is seen inside the nucleus of the cell and consists of double strands of DNA(deoxy-ribonucleic acid). There are thought to be more than 35,000 distinct genes in human chromosomes, each responsible for different characteristics and disease susceptibility. Psoriasis gene resides on chromosome 6 on its HLA arm and is known as PSORS1 gene.

Chronic: A condition that has a long course of illness dotted with waxing and waning. Some are progressively worsening types. Most of these diseases have no cure.

Clobetasol propionate: It is a super potent cortico steroid used in allergic and inflammatory skin conditions. Due to potential side effects, these should be used only under medical supervision.

Cold Sores  : Cold sores or fever blisters are caused by  herpes simplex virus infection. Painful eruptions of multiple grouped vesicles are seen near the lips.

Corticosteroid: A synthetic hormone similar to that produced naturally by the adrenal glands. Used in allergic and inflammatory conditions. Available in both topical, oral and injectable preparations. Different molecules have different strengths. Has to be used under medical supervision only.

Cyclosporine: A medication which was originally developed to prevent the immune system from rejecting transplanted organs. Cyclosporin  has also proved useful in treating psoriasis. Due to the immune suppressive side effects, its use is limited to very severe types of psoriasis.

Coal tar: Tar distilled from bituminous coal applied to the skin to treat psoriasis. Often used in conjunction with UV light therapy but of limited use as it is carcinogenic on prolonged usage..

Crust (Syn. Scab.):  Collections of inflammatory cells, serum and/or fibrin and keratotic material usually covering an erosion or ulcer.

Cytokine: These are specialized proteins which are chemical messengers used by our immune system to communicate messages between cells. In psoriasis, cytokines carry messages that promote inflammation and the overly rapid proliferation of skin cells. These cytokines are released in psoriasis skin mainly from activated T lymphocytes and keratinocytes. Examples are Interleukin 1, Tumor Necrosing Factor (TNF-α ) etc.

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Dandruff  : Dandruff is a chronic scalp condition that causes scaling and flaking of the skin .

Dead Sea:
A salt water lake in the Mediterranean that has been known for centuries for its beneficial effects on skin diseases, including psoriasis.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA): The double helical structure within the nucleus of cells which carries the genetic or hereditary information from the parents.

Recurring and persistent feelings of  hopelessness, helplessness, despair, and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide.

A skin care specialist physician  who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes. The dermatologists have to study further 2-3 years after their basic medical degree to earn their postgraduate diploma or degree in the subject.

Dermatitis : A number of skin conditions characterized by inflammation of the skin. The cause may be either allergic or infective.

Dermis - The middle layer of skin (between  the epidermis and subcutaneous fat) which is made up of blood vessels, nerve endings, lymph vessels, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, sweat glands, and connective tissue. Connective tissue of dermis consisting of collagen, elastic tissue and ground substance formed by fibroblasts , provides the strength of the skin. The dermis is made up of papillary, adventitial (around the appendages and vessels) and reticular dermis. The papillary and adventitial dermis consists of fine fibers, which are loose. The reticular dermis, in contrast, is deeper to the papillary dermis and is composed of much coarser thick eosinophilic collagen fibers .

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Eczema(Syn. Dermatitis.): Eczema is derived from the Greek meaning "a boiling out". It consists of a group of  inflammatory diseases of the skin, characterized by oozing, crusting, and/or scaling. There is also an eczema-type psoriasis, which is most common on the hands and feet and is characterized by itchiness, inflammation, and painful cracks in the skin. Divided into acute, sub acute and chronic variants.

Edema: Swelling of a part of body due to the accumulation of fluid either inside the cells or in between (intercellular space) the cells.

Emollient: A topical application prepared of fat or oil that holds the moisture inside and softens and soothes the skin.

Epidermis: The superficial layers of the skin, consisting of an outer, dead layer and a deeper, living, cellular layers. Divided into 5 layers: Basal, spinous, granular, lucid, and stratum corneum or horny layer. The epidermis is composed of four types of cells, the majority being keratinocytes and the minority melanocytes, Langerhans cells and neuro-endocrine cells (Merkel cells). The keratinocytes undergo characteristic changes during their transit through the epidermis from the undifferentiated basal cells to fully differentiated cornified cells. They are arranged in five layers : basal cell layer (stratum basalis), squamous or prickle cell layer (stratum spinosum), granular cell layer (stratum granulosum), stratum lucidum and horny cell layer (stratum corneum). The undersurface of the epidermis undulates with downward extensions called rete ridges or rete pegs. They interdigitate with cone-shaped upward projections of the dermis called dermal papillae.

Eruptions: Lesions on the skin that are usually red, raised, and easily visible.

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.

Erythema: Erythema is redness of the skin caused by increased blood flow to the capillaries. There are many causes and manifestations of erythema, including photosensitivity, erythema multiforme, and erythema nodusum. 

Erythema multiforme:  Characterized by spots, blisters, or other lesions on the skin and usually results from a reaction to medications, infections, or illness.

Erythema nodosum: A form of erythema that is accompanied by nodules, small round masses, typically on the arms and legs.

Erythematous: Redness

Erythrodermic psoriasis (Syn.Exfoliative psoriasis):
The least common form of psoriasis in which the skin of almost the entire body becomes red and edematous, and may cause difficulty in regulating the body’s temperature and heart rate.

Excoriation : An abraded area of the skin  usually caused by scratching.

Exocytosis: Migration of inflammatory cells in the epidermis. It is present in various inflammatory dermatoses such as psoriasis.

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FDA: Food and Drug Administration. One of its responsibilities includes making sure drugs are safe and efficacious before being cleared for sale to the public.

Fish oils: Oils derived from fish that are rich in omega-3, a polyunsaturated fat often missing from many people’s diets. Some studies show that these are beneficial in psoriasis.

Fissure:(Latin fissura, Pl.fissurae) is a groove, natural division, deep furrow, or cleft found in the brain, spinal cord, and liver; or a tear in the anus (anal fissure), or a fissure in the foot. When psoriasis is severe, fissuring can occur in the lesions, especially on the palms and soles.

Flexural psoriasis (Syn. Inverse psoriasis): Psoriasis that occurs in the skin folds, such as the arm pits or groin, that can cause significant discomfort.

Folliculitis : An inflammation of the hair follicles due to an infection or irritation.

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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.

Genetic disease: Hereditary diseases transmitted through genes.

Genetics: The study of how diseases, conditions, and traits are inherited through the genes. e.g.: Cystic Fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, lamellar icthyosis etc. Psoriasis has a genetic predisposition in that it runs in families, and there are 25% chances of children getting psoriasis if one of the parents has psoriasis.

Goeckerman regimen:
A psoriasis treatment consisting of crude coal tar together with UVB phototherapy, usually administered in a hospital or a psoriasis clinic.

Grattage Test: The test of gently scrapping the surface of psoriasis lesions to remove the scales revealing fine bleeding points. This sign is known as Auspitz sign. This is a characteristic sign of psoriasis.

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

Guided imagery:
A way to reduce stress by focusing on suggested mental visualizations.

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Herpes Zoster (Syn.Shingles.): A common viral infection of the nerves caused by varicella zoster virus, characterized by a painful skin rash or eruption of small blisters on an erythematous base anywhere on the body along the distribution of a cutaneous nerve.

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

Hand/foot therapy: A treatment for psoriasis that uses specialized ultraviolet light units on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Heredity: The transmission of traits from one generation to the next.

HLA: Human leukocyte antigen, one of four genetic markers used to assess tissue compatibility.

Holistic medicine: Natural healing directed at an individual’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.

Home phototherapy: The therapeutic use of an ultraviolet light source in the home, as prescribed by a doctor.

Hormone: A chemical substance that the body produces to regulate the activity of organs(s) or tissue(s).

Hydroxyurea: One of the older anti-cancer drugs that is sometimes used in the treatment of psoriasis. When combined with acitretin, it can become more effective. Either in combination or alone, its use requires careful blood monitoring.

Hematuria: The finding of blood in the urine.

HLA complex: See 'Major histocompatibility complex'.

Histocompatibility: Literally, the ability of tissues to get along; in immunology, it means identity in all transplantation antigens. These antigens, in turn, are collectively referred to as histocompatibility antigens.

Hyperkeratosis: Increased thickness of horny layer with or without increase in the thickness of the granular cell layer.

Hyperplasia (Syn.Hyper proliferation): An increase in number of cells in a tissue. Hyperplasia may be irregular, psoriasiform, or pseudoepitheliomatous.

Hypoalbuminemia: An abnormally low concentration of albumin in the blood.

Hypocalcemia: Abnormally low calcium concentration, that can result in muscle cramps, abdominal cramps, spasms, and hyperactive deep tendon reflexes. Low blood calcium can be seen in cases of hypoparathyroidism, low vitamin D intake, pregnancy, osteomalacia and certain kidney diseases. Normal blood calcium should be in the range of 8.5 to 10.5 mg/dl.

Hypogranulosis: Decreased thickness of granular cell layer seen in conditions such as psoriasis and ichthyosis vulgaris.

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Immune deficiency: The body’s inability to maintain an intact immune system.

Immune response: The reactions of the immune system to foreign substances.

Immune system: An intricate network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

Immunologic: Pertaining to the immune system.

Immunocompromised: An abnormal condition in which one's ability to fight infection is decreased. This can be due to a disease process, certain medications, or a condition present at birth.

Impetigo: A bacterial skin infection characterized by  pus-filled blisters.

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

The condition of being immune, the protection against infectious disease conferred either by the immune response generated by immunization or previous infection or by other nonimmunologic factors.

Inflammation: The protective response of the body’s tissue to irritation or injury, marked by four signs—swelling, redness, heat, and pain.

Interferons: Proteins formed when cells are exposed to a virus or another particle of nucleic acid. Interferons can be used therapeutically for certain diseases such as psoriasis.

Intergluteal: Between the buttocks.

Interleukins: A group of cytokines(glycoproteins) produced mainly by T cells that direct other cells to divide and proliferate. They also stimulate the growth and maturation of cells of the immune system.

Inverse psoriasis (Syn. Flexural psoriasis): Psoriasis that occurs in the skin folds such as the underarm or groin area, which can cause significant discomfort when one part of the skin rubs against another. When this occurs in the genital area, it can cause difficulty with sexual activities.

Incidence of disease: Rate, range or amount of occurrence or influence of a disease. Also denote number of new years per annum, compared to prevalence, which is the total number of cases that are present at any given time.

Inverse Psoriasis: Smooth dry patches that are red and inflamed, often in the folds or creases of the skin, including under the arms and in the groin.

Isomorphic response(Syn.Koebner phenomenon): An isomorphic reaction seen in response to trauma in previously uninvolved sites of patients with skin diseases including psoriasis and lichen planus, typically with lesions in a linear pattern at sites of scratching or a scar.

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Keratin: A family of proteins that form the primary chemical components of the skin, hair, and nails.

Keratinocyte: a type of skin cell; hyper proliferation (accelerated growth) of these cells leads to development of psoriasis lesions.

Keratolytic: an agent that promotes the softening and peeling of the epidermis. e.g. Salicylic acid

Keratinocytes: The cells in the epidermis that manufacture the fibrous protein keratin. The primary cell types found in the epidermis, the outer layer of skin.

Koebner Phenomenon: The development of a psoriatic lesion at the site of skin trauma is called Koebner’s phenomenon. Also spelled Kobner.

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Leucocytes: Generic term for a white blood cell. The family consists of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (polymorphs or neutrophils), lymphocytes, eosinophils, basophils and monocytes.

Lichenification : Thickening and pigmentation of skin caused by chronic friction or scratching.

Lesion: An abnormal change, usually well defined, in the structure of an organ or part of the body; caused by injury or disease. e.g. a patch of skin affected by psoriasis.

Lithium: A substance used in the treatment of bipolar disorder that may possibly trigger or aggravate psoriasis.

Lymphocyte: White blood cells that fight infection and disease. Two types of lymphocytes are derived from bone marrow. Lymphocytes of one type migrate to thymus where they differentiate and then are dispersed to peripheral lymphoid tissue as thymus derived or T lymphocytes. They account for 80% of the circulating lymphocytes. The other type of lymphocytes mature in bone marrow and are designated as B lymphocytes. They account for 20% of the circulating lymphocytes.

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Macule: Macule is a flat, circumscribed skin discoloration of less than 1 cm that is neither elevated or depressed. When the size is more than 0.5 cm, called a patch. e.g.Vitiligo, Cafe au lait, Freckles.

Macrophage: A large phagocytic cell of the mononuclear series found within tissues. Also called an "antigen-presenting cells," macrophages destroy foreign antigens and initiate T cell activation.

Maintenance program: A treatment program that is initiated to keep a disease in remission after an intensive course of therapy.

Malignant melanoma: A potentially fatal form of skin cancer. Psoriasis patients receiving PUVA should be carefully screened for this, even after they’ve finished their therapy; usually treatable when detected early.

Melasma:  Dark pigmentation on the face, especially on the face of women due to increased melanosis.

Methotrexate::One of the oldest chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer; used in the treatment of psoriasis at lower doses..

Major histocompatibility complex (MHC): A group of genes on chromosome 6 in humans, which code for antigens leading to  rapid graft rejection between members of a single species which differ at these loci. Several classes of protein such as MHC class I and II proteins are present in this region.. These in humans, are known as 'Human leukocyte antigens' (HLA) .

Mast cell: Cells probably derived from basophils present in tissues. Participates in 'Immediate hypersensitivity' reactions by release of various chemical mediators like histamine responsible for allergic reactions like urticaria or hives.

Melanocytes : Cells present in the epidermis that produce melanin (skin pigment).

Modified Goeckerman regimen: An outpatient treatment that employs less tar or ointment than the standard Goeckerman regimen. (See Goeckerman regimen.)

Munro's Micro Abscess: These are epidermal micro abscesses, composed of focal collections of neutrophils in the stratum corneum in psoriasis.

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Nail Care  

Narrow-band UVB:
Ultraviolet light in a narrow band of 311 nm to 313 nm, which is faster acting, and possibly safer and effective than other phototherapies..

Neutrophils: See polymorphonuclear leukocyte

Nodule : A deep seated bump, sometimes can be felt and seen above the skin surface also.

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Onycholysis: Breaking and crumbling of the nail plate.

Orthokeratosis: Increased thickness of horny layer with the absence of nuclei..

Over-the-counter (OTC): Medication that can be purchased without the doctor's prescription.

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Palmo-plantar psoriasis: A form of psoriasis that is characterized by pustules on the palms and soles of the feet.

Papule:  Elevated, solid lesions less than 0.5 cm in size. e.g.: Skin tags, lichen planus

Parakeratosis: Retention of nuclei in the horny layer associated with decrease or absence of granular cell layer seen in psoriasis.

Paronychia: A skin infection  affecting the nail folds around a finger or a toe

PASI score: Psoriasis Area Severity Index score, an assessment of psoriasis representing the size, redness, thickness, and scaliness of a person’s psoriasis.

Patch: Flat, circumscribed skin discoloration, more than 0.5 cm in diameter. A large macule.

Photo chemotherapy: The use of medications like the psoralens to increase the sensitivity of skin to the UV light therapy. Used in psoriasis, vitiligo, mycosis fungoides etc.

Photosensitivity: Photosensitivity refers to a skin reaction in response to the sun; it tends to occur when something, such as an infection or a medication, increases a person's sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation.

Phototherapy: The use of natural or artificial UV light to treat disease.

Plaque: Elevated, solid and confluence of papules(more than 0.5 cm in diameter) that lacks a deeper component. e.g. Psoriasis, Bowenoid disease, Mycosis fungoides, Tinea corporis, Eczema.

Plaque psoriasis: The most common form of psoriasis, also known as psoriasis vulgaris, recognized by red, raised lesions covered by silvery scales. About 80% of psoriasis patients have this type.

Polymorphonuclear leukocyte: White cell, granular cytoplasm. Neutral staining (neutrophil) - most frequent, phagocytic. Basophilic staining - basophil. Eosinophilic staining - eosinophil.

Prevalence of disease: Prevalence means the total number of a disease in a community or country at any given period of time. See also incidence.

Prognosis: Prognosis is the term used to define the normal course and outcome of a disease and  chances of cure by following a particular line of therapy.

Proteinuria: The presence of protein in urine. This usually indicates an injury to the filtering mechanism or impending renal failure.

Psoralen:  A photosensitizing drug used in combination with UVA to treat psoriasis (also known as PUVA therapy).

Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a non-contagious, genetic disease that results when faulty signals in the immune system prompt skin cells to regenerate too quickly, causing silvery white scales accumulate in red patches over the skin. It often affects the elbows, knees, nails, scalp and body folds but can appear anywhere on the body.

Psoriatic arthritis: Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory disease which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints. Ten percent to 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriasis vulgaris: See plaque psoriasis.

Pus: Thick, opaque, usually yellowish-white fluid made up of dead tissue, dead bacteria, and white blood cells, usually a sign of presence of infection.

Pustular psoriasis: A type of psoriasis characterized by blisters of pus on the skin, usually on the palms or soles of the feet. The pustules in psoriasis are not infectious.

Pustule: A small, circumscribed elevation of the skin containing pus.

PUVA: Psoralen plus ultraviolet A is a treatment that combines exposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) light with a medicine called Psoralen. Psoralen is believed to heighten photosensitivity and increase the skin’s response to UVA for people with moderate to severe psoriasis.


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Rebound phenomenon: In reference to psoriasis: A severe and sudden change that occurs in psoriasis when systemic therapy or topical therapy with potent steroids is suddenly halted. This change leaves the patient’s psoriasis in a significantly worse condition than before the treatment was started. Rebound may also include a change in the nature of the psoriasis, for example, from plaque to pustular form. In some cases, rebound may be recognized early as new onset, severe and extensive erythema.

Receptor: Structures on the surface of cells that serve as attachment sites for other cells or signaling molecules to relay information or trigger a reaction.

Remission: The period during which the symptoms of a disease decrease or subside.

Retinoids: Vitamin A derivatives often used in topical or oral psoriasis and acne therapy.

Rete Pegs: The downward projection of the epidermis known as papillary projection. These are elongated in psoriasis, alternating with the papillary dermis.

Rheumatoid arthritis: A chronic autoimmune disease characterized by pain, stiffness, inflammation, swelling, and, sometimes, destruction of joints.

Rheumatologist: A specialist in the treatment of arthritis and related diseases.

Rheumatoid factor: An autoantibody (usually IgM) which reacts with the individual's own IgG. Present in rheumatoid arthritis.

Rosacea : Rosacea, previously called acne rosacea, is a chronic disorder of middle age affecting the flush area of the face manifesting with telangiectasia(dilated blood vessels), red coloration, and  papular or pustular lesions. 

Rotational therapy: A strategy in which a doctor rotates a patient’s treatments periodically, from one to another, to reduce toxicity and to allow for longer periods of benefit from each agent.

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Scabies: A skin infestation of scabies mites characterized by severe itching and excoriations.

Scales: Dead skin cells that look like flakes or dry skin. In psoriasis, these are characteristically silvery white in color.

Scar : Fibrous tissue that is formed after a skin injury.

Salicylic acid : A  keratolytic drug (a drug that removes the outer layer of skin) that is used to treat various skin conditions.

Sarcoidosis: An inflammation of the lymph nodes and other organs.

Scalp psoriasis: Plaque psoriasis that appears on the scalp. It is often itchy and most visible around the ears and hairline. The constant flaking and shedding of dead skin cells give the appearance of severe dandruff.

SCAT: Short-contact anthralin therapy.

Sebaceous glands: Glands in the skin that secrete oil (sebum) to the surface of the skin. Acne and seborrhoeic dermatitis are two conditions affecting the sebaceous glands.

Shark cartilage: A food supplement thought by some to be useful in treating psoriasis. No scientific evidence or studies are there to prove the claim.

Shingles: See Herpes Zoster.

Skin biopsy: Taking a small piece of skin to be examined under a microscope. This procedure is usually performed with the aid of a local anesthetic, and helps a dermatologist diagnose the type of skin disorder.

Skin thinning: A condition in which the skin atrophies due to any variety of causes, including overuse of topical steroids

Spongiform pustule (of Kogoj): Aggregates of neutrophils within the intercellular space forming  a sponge-like network in the upper layers of the epidermis. Another characteristic feature of psoriasis.

Squamous cell carcinoma: A form of skin cancer that is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. People who have received PUVA may be at risk of this type of skin cancer.

Steroids (Cortico-steroids):  A synthetic hormone similar to that produced naturally by the adrenal glands that is available in pill, topical cream, and injectable forms.

Streptococcal sore throat (Syn. “Strep throat”): A type of bacterial infection of the throat that, in susceptible individuals, may trigger the onset of psoriasis, usually in a form called guttate psoriasis, especially in children. The auto antibodies produced by Strep throat is also known to cause Rheumatic heart disease and Glomerulonephritis in children.

Stress (Syn.Tension): Stress occurs when the demands upon an individual cannot be met with the resources available. Stress has far reaching effects on the body and mind. Stress is known to be a trigger for psoriasis.

Stressors: Any of a number of factors that can cause an individual to experience physical or emotional stress.

Support group: A gathering of people who share a common concern or have a common interest. The support groups meet regularly to exchange ideas, discuss problems and  offer  emotional support to each other.

Systemic:  Affecting the entire body.

Systemic treatment: A treatment, such as a pill or an injection that could affect the whole body.

Squamous cells : The primary cell types found in the epidermis, the outer layer of skin, also called keratinocytes.

Seborrhoeic dermatitis(Syn. Severe Dandruff): An inflammatory condition of the skin characterized by increased sebum secretion and yeast infection, scaling, flaking and itching. Commonly seen on the scalp face, front and back of chest.

Signs: What the doctor finds and describes as the clinical presentation of a disease

Symptoms: What the patient complains of.

Intercellular edema or swelling between the squamous cells of the epidermis resulting in widened intercellular spaces.

Squamous Cell Layer:Normal cellular layer of the epidermis above the basal layer.

Stratum Corneum: Upper most horny layer of the epidermis. Consists of dead cells.

Subungual: Below the nail

Squamous cell carcinoma: A form of skin cancer that affects about 20 percent of patients with skin cancer. This highly treatable cancer is characterized by red, scaly skin that becomes an open sore.

Subcutis : The deepest layer of skin; also known as the subcutaneous layer.

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Tacrolimus: An immune suppressant similar to cyclosporine.

Tars: Natural, sticky substances used to treat psoriasis as in coal tar shampoos, topical creams, and ointments.

Tazarotene: Vitamin A topical medication for the treatment of psoriasis.

Telangiectasia: Dilatation of blood vessels mostly of venules but also of capillaries and arterioles. This can become evident beneath the thinned epidermis due to prolonged application of topical corticosteroids.

Tinea versicolor: A common superficial fungal skin infection characterized by white or light brown scaly patches on the skin.

T cells(Syn.T lymphocytes): Cells that either initiate the immune response (helper T cells) or actively target and destroy cells perceived as foreign (killer T cells). The T lymphocytes play an important role in normal cutaneous immune surveillance and in delayed hypersensitivity reaction. T lymphocytes are activated through the presentation of antigens by Antigen presenting cells(APC) or macrophages. They then release chemical messengers known as cytokines, which are responsible for a wide range of cellular and vascular inflammatory responses seen in diseases like psoriasis.

T-cell receptors: Molecules on the surface of T cells that are the sites for macrophages to "present" antigens to the T cell and trigger an immune response.

Tretinoin: A drug which is chemically related to vitamin A; used to treat acne and other scaly skin disorders.

Thrombocytopenia: A disorder sometimes associated with abnormal bleeding in which the number of platelets (cells that help blood to clot) is abnormally low.

Topical agent: A treatment such as a cream, salve, or ointment that is applied to the surface of the skin.

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

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF): One of the cytokines, or messengers, known to be fundamental to the disease process that underlies psoriasis. It often plays a key role in the onset and the continuation of skin inflammation.

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Urticaria  (Syn. hives.): A condition in which red, itchy, and swollen areas appear on the skin - usually as an allergic reaction from food, medications, contact allergy, infections etc. Most often, a cause could not be identified.

Ultraviolet (UV) light: The type of light that emanates directly from the sun. It is classified into three categories according to wavelength: UVC, UVB, and UVA. Ultraviolet light can also be simulated from artificial light sources. This is an effective treatment for psoriasis and vitiligo.

UVB phototherapy: Treatment involving measured doses of UV light in the UVB wavelength. Two types are broadband UVB, and the less common narrow-band UVB. Indicated for moderate to severe psoriasis, UVB treatment can reduce the abnormal growth of skin cells and can lessen inflammation.

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Varicella : See Chicken Pox

Vesicle: A clear fluid filled sac, a blister less than 0.5 cm in diameter.

Vitamin A: Derivatives of this vitamin, called retinoids, are used in its oral and topical forms to treat psoriasis.

Vitamin D3(Syn.Calcipotriene): A topical vitamin used to treat psoriasis.

Vitiligo : Smooth, white patches in the skin caused by the loss of pigment-producing cells, thought to be an autoimmune disease of melanocytes.

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Wart(Syn. Verruca): A benign skin growth caused by a virus known as Human Papilloma Virus.

White blood cell: Cells that help the body fight infection and disease.

Wheal (Syn. Hive): Firm, edematous plaque that is evanescent and itchy. Seen in Urticaria.

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Yoga: An ancient system of holistic healing involving relaxing breathing and postural exercises.

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Dr.Hanish Babu, MD is an Indian Dermatologist & Venereologist  practicing in Ajman, UAE. He is the  author of the well known Stress Management e-Book package online 10 Days to Stress Free Life and a net-entrepreneur. He is also a certified hypnotist, stress management trainer and personality development trainer. He edits half a dozen web sites on the above subjects. He is also the Web Editor of the AKMG Emirates( Association of Kerala Medical Graduates, UAE Chapter).

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