Psoriasis (pronounced sore-EYE-ah-sis) is a common yet chronic skin disease. It is believed to be caused when a person’s immune system sends bad or faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly.
Normally, new skin cells grow every couple of weeks. The body will naturally shed old cells. This process keeps the skin healthy. If you have psoriasis, new skin cells form more quickly, in a matter of days. The body does not shed these excess skin cells. The excess cells then pile up on the surface of the skin, causing psoriasis.
There are different types of psoriasis:
Plaque psoriasis. This is the most common form of psoriasis. It appears as raised, red patches covered with a buildup of dead skin cells.
Guttate psoriasis. This is the second most common form of psoriasis. It appears as small, dot-like lesions. This form of psoriasis often starts in childhood or young adulthood.
Inverse psoriasis. This form of psoriasis appears as red lesions often found behind the knee or under the arm or groin.
Pustular psoriasis. This form of psoriasis appears as white blisters surrounded by red skin. Pustular psoriasis occurs most often on the hands or feet.
Erythrodermic psoriasis. This form is a severe form of psoriasis that leads to widespread patches across most of the body.
Some people will get more than one type of psoriasis. There is currently no cure for psoriasis.
This disease is not contagious. You cannot contract psoriasis from another person, nor can you spread it to others.
If you have symptoms of psoriasis, you should contact your healthcare provider. You should also talk to your doctor if your skin condition:
- Causes pain or discomfort
- Makes performing daily tasks difficult
- Appears to worsen with treatment
Scientists are still trying to understand the cause of psoriasis. It is thought the cause may be related to a problem with the immune system. Genetics, or a family history, may also play a factor. Scientists do know that psoriasis is not contagious.
Psoriasis typically starts or worsens because of a trigger. Factors that may trigger psoriasis include:
- Strep throat
- Cut or scrapes to the skin
Your healthcare provider can usually diagnose psoriasis by examining your skin, scalp, and nails. In rare cases, he or she may take a small sample of your skin (biopsy) to rule out other skin disorders.
There are many treatments for psoriasis. Your treatment may depend on the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options may include:
- Topical treatments that will help reduce inflammation and relieve itching.
- Moisturizers to reduce itching, and dryness.
- Light therapy to slow cell growth and reduce inflammation.
- Oral or injected medications for severe cases of psoriasis. These treatments can have bothersome side effects, so be sure to talk to your doctor.
While you can’t prevent psoriasis, there are measures you can take to prevent future flare-ups. These measures include:
- Use moisturizing lotions to keep your skin from getting dry
- Use a humidifier to keep your skin moist
- Avoid medications that cause flare-ups
- Reduce stress
- Maintain a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise
Signs and symptoms of psoriasis are different for each person. Common symptoms may include:
- Red patches of skin that may cover a large area
- Dry, cracked skin
- Itching, burning, or soreness
- Swollen and stiff joints