For some psoriasis patients, this immune system disease is an itch that can't be scratched.

The National Psoriasis Foundation estimates that 4.5 million American adults suffer from psoriasis. August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Psoriasis Foundation to raise awareness of the disease and educate psoriasis patients.

Psoriasis is an immune system skin condition that, in most cases, causes patches of red raised skin covered by a flaky white buildup. These patches may be itchy or painful. It is often misperceived by the general public to be a contagious skin rash, when in actuality, the disease can only be transmitted genetically.

Many people carry the genes that make them more likely to develop psoriasis, but some never do. Psoriasis usually appears between the ages of 15 and 35 when the disease is triggered. Emotional stress, injury to the skin, some types of infection and reactions to certain drugs can trigger primary psoriasis appearance or a secondary outbreak.

Once the disease is triggered, the most common reaction is a too-rapid pile-up of skin cells on the surface of the body. This type of psoriasis is referred to as plaque psoriasis and is one of five types of psoriasis categorized by the appearance of the skin. The disease can be categorized as mild, moderate or severe based on the patient's quality of life while living with the disease.

Psoriasis can also have a significant psychological, social or emotional impact on a patient and the patient's family and friends.

If someone you know is affected by psoriasis, you can be instrumental in maintaining their mental health. By encouraging the patient to ignore rejection from those who don't understand the nature of psoriasis, you can help them to see themselves, not just the disease.

Although psoriasis is not treatable, topical and oral treatments are often prescribed to help control breakouts. For further information on psoriasis, ask your dermatologist.