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Psoriasis: The Diagnosis Process

By

Gina Garippo

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

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If you suspect you have psoriasis, it’s important to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder that often causes red, scaly patches to form on the skin. By pinpointing the problem, your doctor can develop a treatment plan to help you and prevent complications. But psoriasis isn’t always easy to diagnose. Here’s what you need to know when you visit your doctor.

Seeing a Specialist

Psoriasis doesn’t have to ruin your life—if you find the right doctor, determine the best treatment, and commit to living a healthy lifestyle, you can stay on top of your condition.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 18, 2017

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

The first step in getting an accurate diagnosis for your skin condition is to see your regular doctor or a dermatologist. Dermatologists specialize in the medical and surgical care of the skin, hair and nails. Try to schedule an appointment as soon as you suspect a problem. Getting a diagnosis as early as possible can help you learn how to manage the condition and reduce its impact. 

Recognizing the Symptoms 

There’s no test that can tell your doctor if you have psoriasis. But most dermatologists can diagnose the condition by examining the skin. Symptoms of the most common type of psoriasis—called plaque psoriasis—may include:

  • Cracking of the skin around the joints
  • Pain, itching or burning around the affected skin
  • Patches of thin, red skin covered with silvery scales

The condition—and its severity—is different for everyone. Areas that are most often affected include the skin around the knees, elbows, scalp and torso. But psoriasis can occur anywhere, including the fingernails, genitalia, and soles of the feet. In addition, some people only experience skin irritation once in awhile. Others live with constant problems. 
Keep in mind there are other, less common types of psoriasis that cause different symptoms. Some include pus-filled bumps. Others lead to the development of small, round lesions. About 15% of people with psoriasis also develop psoriatic arthritis, in which they develop inflammation or restricted motion in the joints. Because of the many differences in psoriasis, it’s best to get a clear diagnosis from your doctor. 

Taking a Closer Look

Sometimes your doctor may not be able to clearly diagnose psoriasis by examining your skin. That’s because psoriasis can look very similar to other skin conditions, like eczema. If this is the case, your dermatologist may take a skin biopsy. This is a small sample of skin to examine under a microscope. Typically a dermatopathologist can tell psoriasis apart from eczema under a microscopic exam because the affected skin in psoriasis looks thicker and inflamed when compared to eczema.

Gaining Control

Once you have a clear diagnosis, work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works for you. There are many treatment options that can help keep symptoms under control. Some common treatments for psoriasis include topical creams or ointments, phototherapy, and oral or injectable medications. By working closely with your doctor, you can take control of your condition and feel better each day.

Was this helpful? (29)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 30, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. About Psoriatic Arthritis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriatic-arthritis
  2. Psoriasis. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/psoriasis.html
  3. About Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis

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