This is a chronic condition typically defined by skin that is red, thick and covered with scaly patchy areas that are silver or white.

This is a chronic condition typically defined by skin that is red, thick and covered with scaly patchy areas that are silver or white.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease (where the body attacks itself). There are different types of psoriasis. The most common type is called plaque psoriasis.

  • Plaque psoriasis is a chronic condition characterized by skin that is red, thick and covered with patchy, scaly areas that are silver or white.
  • The cause of psoriasis is not clear. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to reproduce too rapidly. This results in a buildup of dead skin cells, causing the scales or patchy areas seen with plaque psoriasis.
  • Although psoriasis can develop anywhere on the body, it is typically seen on the knees, elbows and torso. The scalp and nails can also be affected.
  • The symptoms of psoriasis can vary from mild (a few small spots) to severe (patches that cover large areas of skin). The symptoms can also go away for long periods of time.

Some people with psoriasis develop a specific type of arthritis, known as "psoriatic arthritis." The symptoms associated with psoriatic arthritis can also range from mild to severe and can affect different joints in the body. Mild symptoms commonly affect the joints at the end of the toes and fingers. Severe symptoms can affect the spine, especially the lower (lumbar) spine area.

Psoriasis is not contagious and typically begins between fifteen and thirty-five years of age. (There is an increased risk if other family members have psoriasis.) The symptoms can vary a lot from time to time. Often the attacks are caused by a "trigger," which can also make the psoriasis more difficult to treat. Some common triggers include:

  • A bacterial infection, especially those caused by streptococcus bacteria (i.e. strep throat)
  • Skin that is dry or being in air that is dry
  • Any type of skin injury
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Too little or too much sunlight
  • Stress

People with a weakened immune system due to medication or illness may have more severe symptoms.

There is no cure for psoriasis. Treatment is focused on controlling the symptoms and preventing infection. There are basically 3 types of medical treatment for psoriasis.

  • Lotions, creams, shampoos and ointments that are applied to the affected skin
  • Prescription medications that target the immune system. These are given in the form of injections that you can self-administer at home
  • Phototherapy, or the use of a special light to the affected areas

Your healthcare provider may order an antibiotic if you have a bacterial infection related to the psoriasis.

Some things you can do at home to ease the symptoms include:

  • Taking daily showers
  • Soaking in oatmeal baths
  • Avoiding your known triggers
  • Exposing affected areas to limited sunlight (be sure to avoid sunburns).

Stress reduction techniques may be helpful, but their effectiveness is not well documented.

When you contact your healthcare provider for evaluation of your psoriasis, be prepared to discuss your symptoms, how long you've had them, if you have had them before and if they are progressing or changing.

  • Before your appointment, make a list of the patients medical history, including past illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations. List all medications (including over-the-counter) and any questions or concerns you want to discuss.
  • During your appointment, ask about your overall health, what symptoms you might have and when you may start to see improvement. Ask what the follow-up plans are, if any, and what symptoms you should report before your next appointment.
  • After your appointment, you should know the diagnosis, what tests you might need, the reason for those tests and if the test results will change your treatment plan. You should also understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).
  • If your healthcare provider wants you to take a medication, ask if an over-the-counter product is right for you.
  • If your healthcare provider prescribes a medication for you, ask for a generic version. If your doctor thinks that a generic version is not right for you, ask for a medication on the lowest available tier of your Prescription Drug List (PDL).


Also known as:

Skin Rash
Scaly Skin
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