Psoriasis Facts

By

Laura Semko

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psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop as silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.

Psoriasis is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the U.S. It often appears between the ages of 15 and 25 but can develop at any age. Though not contagious, the condition is hereditary.

It’s not a rash, it’s not just dry skin—it’s psoriasis. Psoriasis patients and experts share what they want you to know about this chronic condition.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 13, 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.

The cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, it’s thought to be a result of abnormally fast-growing and shedding skin cells. The skin cells multiply very quickly, causing the skin to shed every three to four days. Doctors think it occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells.

The hallmark sign of psoriasis is red skin, with scaly white patches. Depending on the type, psoriasis may also cause blisters, small pink spots, or white, flaky skin. The elbows, knees, and torso are most commonly affected.

If you have psoriasis, you might experience periods with no symptoms. Suddenly, your skin problems may flare up in response to certain triggers. Cold weather, smoking, stress, colds and other illnesses, dry skin, and insect bites or injuries can bring it about.

Psoriasis is often recurrent and occurs in varying severities. There are several types of psoriasis including discoid psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, and pustular psoriasis. Also called plaque psoriasis, discoid psoriasis is the most common type. Guttate psoriasis is a relatively uncommon type that affects mostly children; it usually develops quickly and after an infection, notably strep throat. Pustular psoriasis is a rare form that develops primarily in adults.

When the condition progresses to the development of silvery scales, a doctor can usually diagnose psoriasis with a physical examination of the nails and skin. Confirmation of diagnosis may be done with a skin biopsy. A doctor takes a small skin specimen to examine under a microscope.

There is no cure for psoriasis, but treatment can greatly help keep symptoms at bay. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow down the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. Treatment may include ointments and creams to moisturize the skin; sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure performed under a physician's supervision; steroids such as cortisone creams; vitamin D cream; creams containing salicylic acid or coal tar; anthralin, which is a drug that treats the thicker, hard-to-treat patches of psoriasis; methotrexate, which is an anticancer drug that interrupts the growth of skin cells; oral or topical retinoids; and immunosuppressive medications.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 7, 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.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Psoriasis. American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/psoriasis.html
  2. Questions and Answers about Psoriasis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Psoriasis/default.asp
  3. Psoriasis. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/psoriasis.html
  4. National Psoriasis Foundation http://www.psoriasis.org/netcommunity/learn_statistics
  5. Psoriasis. American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/psoriasis


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