What is Psoriasis?

Lady with rash on extensor arms, psoriasis

What is Psoriasis?

What is psoriasis? 

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that is marked by thick, red/pink, and flaky plaques. Classically these spots have a silverly scale. In patients with brown skin tones, the psoriasis plaques can appear more purple, brown, or even a grayish color.

What causes psoriasis?

No one knows exactly what causes psoriasis but we do know it can be run in families. Patient’s who are diagnosed with psoriasis often have a close relative who also has the condition.

 

Man with skin rash on arms and hands, dry flaky skin with psoriasis.
Man with skin condition on arms and hands that is dry and flaky, consistent with psoriasis.

 

What are the symptoms of psoriasis? 

  • Scaly, dry red/purple/brown spots; Classically covered in a silvery-white scales
  • Itching
  • Rashes on the scalp, genitals, or in the skin folds
  • Pain in the skin
  • Joint pain, stiffness and/or swelling
  • Nail changes, such as discoloration or thickened/crumbly nails
  • Pustules

 

Is there a blood test for psoriasis? 

The diagnosis of psoriasis is almost always made clinically, meaning your dermatologist will examine your skin and the appearance should be enough to make the diagnosis. However, at times diagnosis may not always be clear and in those times a skin biopsy may be done to help to solidify the diagnosis.

Are there different types of psoriasis?

These are the common types of psoriasis:

Plaque psoriasis — The most common type. Classically, these spots are present on the elbows, knees, scalp and back. The lesions can vary from small 1/2 inch to large lesions greater than 12 inches in length. The severity of plaque psoriasis may vary widely and may occur in just a few small areas or but can cover a large portion of the body.

Guttate psoriasis — Often associated with a recent strep (streptococcal) infection. It typically affects children or young adults, and can present with a sudden eruption of small scaly lesions spread across the body.

Pustular psoriasis — Though not common, this type can be very severe, causing pain and even potentially life-threatening. Typically fast onset, with multiple small pustules that can affect anywhere on the body or be limited to the hands and feet. These pustules can cause pain, leads to cracks in the skin and potentially become physically limiting.

Inverse psoriasis — Often misdiagnosed as fungal or bacterial infections, this type of psoriasis affects hidden areas of the body, such as the groin, armpits, buttock, genitals or beneath the breasts. Scale is not always appreciated with this particular form of psoriasis, as the lesions are usually smooth red or pink.

Nail psoriasis — One of the most difficult forms of psoriasis to treat, this type can alter the appearance of the nail to an undesirable state. Nail psoriasis often causes lifting of the nail, discoloration, pits, thicken nails or nail brittleness.

 

Psoriasis Vulgaris, psoriatic skin disease in hair.
Psoriasis Vulgaris, which can also affect the scalp.

 

How is psoriasis treated? 

While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are a number of treatments available to improve psoriasis plaques on the skin and the joint problems. The standard of care medications includes creams and ointments. Other medications that can help and potentially be even more effective involve pills, shots (sub cutaneous injections) or light therapy. It is important to work with your dermatologist to find out what treatment or combination of treatments maybe right for you.

What can I do to improve my symptoms? 

Dry skin is the enemy of psoriasis and can make the itching and overall condition worse. Using heavier moisturizing creams can help minimize this symptom especially during the colder drier winter months.

What is psoriatic arthritis? 

Not all patients who have psoriasis have joint pain at the time of diagnosis but it is important to understand that this symptom can develop over time. And for those patients that do develop this issue, they are often diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis which is a form of arthritis that can affect small and large joints. It can cause pain, swelling, and/or stiffness. If you have psoriasis and experience joint pain it is important to tell your dermatologist as these symptoms can become worse over time and potentially cause permanent damage.

If you or someone you know has psoriasis that is not well treated, please speak to your dermatologist today about different treatment options available.

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