What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects about 3 percent of Americans. We do not currently know the exact cause of psoriasis, but it’s believed to be a combination of immune system dysregulation, genetics, and a possible triggering event in the patient’s life. Skin cells usually grow gradually, but psoriatic skin cells replicate at an increased rate. This increased cell division causes the thickened skin plaques seen in plaque psoriasis.

Different Types of Psoriasis

Psoriasis comes in many forms. Each differs in severity, duration, location, shape, and pattern of presentation. Overlapping types of psoriasis can occur in one person at the same time.

  • Plaque psoriasis is the most common type, often presenting as red plaques with a fine silvery scale, and usually occurring on the elbows, knees, and scalp.
  • Inverse psoriasis often presents as red, shiny patches in the armpit, under the breasts, or in skin folds around the groin, buttocks, and genitals.
  • Guttate psoriasis usually affects children and young adults, often presenting as small pink-to-red raised spots that occur anywhere on the skin. Strep infection, stress, or certain medications can trigger the condition, which frequently clears up by itself in weeks or a few months, but can progress to chronic plaque psoriasis.
  • Pustular psoriasis presents as pus-filled bumps on red skin. This rare form often occurs on the hands and feet. If it becomes generalized (covering a large part of the body), it can be dangerous and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis presents as widespread red skin and is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Scalp psoriasis often presents as red patches with fine white scaling on the scalp, and may be mistaken for dandruff.
  • Psoriatic nails may appear to have tiny pits, and may loosen, thicken, or crumble. These nail changes are difficult to treat.
  • Psoriatic arthritis inflicts arthritis symptoms on as many as 30 percent of all psoriasis patients.

Can I catch Psoriasis or give it to someone else?

While there is a familial association, meaning that psoriasis can be passed genetically within families, it is not contagious.

Is there a cure for Psoriasis?

Although no cure currently exists for psoriasis, many different treatments can control symptoms.

Before recommending treatment for your psoriasis, we’ll get to know you as a person, not simply a patient, in order to tailor a regimen that will work best for you and your lifestyle. We consider many factors, such as the severity of disease, the amount of affected surface area, the affected areas of the body, the presence or absence of psoriatic arthritis, and the psychosocial impact of the psoriasis on you as an individual.

Are people with Psoriasis at risk for other health problems?

Yes. It’s estimated that up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. There’s also a higher correlation of heart disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and depression in patients affected by psoriasis. People with psoriasis also have an increased risk of certain types of cancers, such as lymphoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.

For the above reasons, it’s especially important for individuals with psoriasis to have regular checkups with their dermatologist and with their primary care physician.

Learn more from the National Psoriasis Foundation.