What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic disease where skin cells grow too quickly. New skin cells form in days rather than weeks.The body does not shed these excess skin cells, thus the skin cells pile up on the skin. Psoriasis is not contagious. It is believed that to get psoriasis, a person must inherit the genes that cause it.

What are the different types of psoriasis?

If you have psoriasis, you will have one or more of these types:

  • Plaque
  • Guttate
  • Inverse
  • Pustular
  • Erythrodermic

Some people get more than one type. Sometimes a person gets one type of psoriasis, and then the type of psoriasis changes.

Plaque psoriasis

  • Raised, reddish areas on the skin called plaques.
  • Patches may be covered with a silvery-white coating, called scale.
  • Patches can appear anywhere on the skin, but are most commonly found on the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp.
  • Patches can itch.
  • Scratching the itchy patches areas causes the patches or plaques to thicken.
  • Patches vary in size and can appear as separate patches or join together to cover a large area.
  • Can cause pits in the nails, crumbling nails, or nails can fall off.

Guttate psoriasis

  • Small, red spots (usually on the trunk, arms, and legs). Spots often appear after an illness (particularly strep throat.)
  • Spots may clear up in a few weeks or months without treatment.
  • Spots may reappear where the person had plaque psoriasis.

Pustular psoriasis

  • Skin red, swollen, and dotted with pus-filled bumps.
  • Bumps usually appear only on the palms and soles.
  • Soreness and pain where the bumps appear.
  • Pus-filled bumps will dry, and leave behind brown dots and/or scale on the skin.

Inverse psoriasis

(also called flexural psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis)

  • Smooth, red patches of skin
  • Patches tend to only develop where skin touches skin, such as the armpits, around the groin, genitals, and buttocks. Women can develop a red, raw patch under their breasts.
  • Skin feels very sore where inverse psoriasis appears.

Erythrodermic psoriasis

  • Skin looks like it is burned.
  • Most (or all) of the skin on the body turns bright red.
  • Body cannot maintain its normal temperature.
  • Heart beats too fast.
  • Intense itching.
  • Intense pain.

If it looks like a person has erythrodermic psoriasis, get the person to a hospital right away. The person’s life may be in danger.

How can a dermatologist diagnose psoriasis?

To diagnose psoriasis, a dermatologist:
• Examines a patient’s skin, nails, and scalp for signs of psoriasis.
• Asks whether family members have psoriasis.
• Learns whether a patient has had a recent illness, or recently started taking a new medication.
Sometimes a dermatologist also removes a bit of skin, to confirm the diagnosis.

How does a dermatologist treat psoriasis?

Treatment can reduce signs and symptoms of psoriasis, and in some cases, people see their skin completely clear. Studies show that as psoriasis clears, a person’s quality of life improves. Thanks to ongoing research, there are many treatments for psoriasis. It is important to work with a dermatologist to find treatment that is effective and fits your lifestyle. Every treatment has benefits, drawbacks, and possible side effects.

How can I help in treating my psoriasis?

Psoriasis is often a long-lasting disease. Here are some things you can do that will help you take control.

  • Learn about psoriasis.
  • Take good care of yourself.
  • Be aware of your joints.
  • Notice your nails.
  • Pay attention to your mood.
  • Learn about treatment for psoriasis.