What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis (say "suh-RY-uh-sus")
is a long-term (chronic) skin problem that causes skin cells to grow too
quickly, resulting in thick, white, silvery, or red patches of skin.
skin cells grow gradually and flake off about every 4 weeks. New skin cells
grow to replace the outer layers of the skin as they shed.
But in psoriasis ,
new skin cells move rapidly to the surface of the skin in days rather than
weeks. They build up and form thick patches called plaques (say "plax"). The patches range in size from small to large. They most often appear on
the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet, or lower back. Psoriasis is most common
in adults. But children and teens can get it too.
psoriasis can be embarrassing, and many people, especially teens, avoid
swimming and other situations where patches can show. But there are many types
of treatment that can help keep psoriasis under control.
What causes psoriasis?
Experts believe that
psoriasis occurs when the
immune system overreacts, causing
inflammation and flaking of skin. In some
cases, psoriasis runs in families.
psoriasis often notice times when their skin gets worse. Things that can cause
these flare-ups include a cold and dry climate, infections,
stress, dry skin, and taking certain medicines.
Psoriasis isn't contagious. It
can't be spread by touch from person to person.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of psoriasis
appear in different ways. Psoriasis can be mild, with small areas of rash. When
psoriasis is moderate or severe, the skin gets inflamed with raised red areas
topped with loose, silvery, scaling skin. If psoriasis is severe, the skin
becomes itchy and tender. And sometimes large patches form and may be uncomfortable. The patches can join together and cover large areas of skin, such
as the entire back.
In some people, psoriasis causes joints to
become swollen, tender, and painful. This is called
psoriatic arthritis (say "sor-ee-AT-ik ar-THRY-tus").
This arthritis can also affect the fingernails and toenails, causing the nails
to pit, change color, and separate from the nail bed. Dead skin may build up
under the nails.
Symptoms often disappear (go into remission),
even without treatment, and then return (flare up).
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
A doctor can usually
diagnose psoriasis by looking at the patches on your skin, scalp, or nails.
Special tests aren't usually needed.
How is it treated?
Most cases of psoriasis are
mild, and treatment begins with skin care. This includes keeping your skin
moist with creams and lotions. These are often used with other treatments
including shampoos, ultraviolet light, and medicines your doctor
In some cases, psoriasis can be hard to treat. You
may need to try different combinations of treatments to find what works for
you. Treatment for psoriasis may continue for a lifetime.
What can you do at home for psoriasis?
at home can help control psoriasis. Follow these tips to care for
- Use creams or lotions, baths, or soaks to
keep your skin moist.
- Try short exposure to sunlight or
ultraviolet (UV) light.
- Follow instructions for
skin products and prescribed medicines. It may take a period of trial and error
until you know which skin products or methods work best for you. For mild
symptoms of psoriasis, some
over-the-counter medicines, such as aloe vera, may be
It's also important to avoid those things that can cause
psoriasis symptoms to flare up or make the condition worse. Things to avoid
- Skin injury. An injury
to the skin can cause psoriasis patches to form anywhere on the body, including
the site of the injury. This includes injuries to your nails or nearby skin
while trimming your nails.
- Stress and anxiety. Stress can cause psoriasis to appear suddenly (flare) or can
make symptoms worse.
- Infection. Infections
strep throat can cause psoriasis to appear suddenly,
especially in children.
- Certain medicines.
Some medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
beta-blockers, and lithium, have been found to make
psoriasis symptoms worse. Talk with your doctor. You may be able to take a
- Overexposure to sunlight. Short periods of sun exposure reduce psoriasis in
most people, but too much sun can damage the skin and cause skin cancer. And
sunburns can trigger flares of psoriasis.
- Alcohol. Alcohol use can cause symptoms to flare
- Smoking. Smoking can
make psoriasis worse. If you smoke, try to quit.
Studies have not found that specific diets can cure or
improve the condition, even though some advertisements claim to. For some people,
not eating certain foods helps their psoriasis. Most doctors recommend that you
eat a balanced diet to be healthy and stay at a healthy weight.
Frequently Asked Questions