Psoriasis is a skin disease that results from a faulty immune system. Instead of only targeting viruses and bacteria, your immune system turns on healthy tissue. It attacks your skin, which speeds up how quickly your skin cells multiply.

Skin usually takes a month to grow and fall off. With psoriasis, the process takes only 3 or 4 days. Skin cells build up, causing thick, red patches called plaques. They’re often covered in white or silvery scales. Although plaques and scales can grow anywhere, they’re most common on your knees, elbows, and scalp.

Psoriasis usually first appears in young adults. No one knows for sure what causes the disease, but genetics play a role. It runs in families. You can’t spread psoriasis from person to person.

Once you have psoriasis, you’ll deal with the condition for the rest of your life. Most of the time, the disease flares up for a few weeks or months, followed by a stretch of fewer or no symptoms. Triggers, such as stress or infections, can set off a flare.

Psoriasis can be unpredictable. In some people, the disease stays mild for years. In others, it worsens quickly. The disease is also more than skin deep. The same inflammation that causes plaques and scales can affect your entire body. This sets the stage for other health issues.

A Visual Guide to Psoriasis

knee

Painful Joints and Weakened Bones

For about a third of people with psoriasis, the immune system also attacks the joints. This triggers inflammation and swollen, painful joints. This condition is called psoriatic arthritis.

Psoriatic arthritis often appears 10 years after psoriasis develops. It can affect different parts of your body, such as your fingers, toes, and spine.

Other symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stiff, tender, swollen, and throbbing joints or tendons
  • Reduced range of motion

Although there’s no cure, a doctor can prescribe treatments to ease the pain and prevent permanent damage to your joints.

Along with harming joints, psoriasis can also weaken bones. Research shows that people with psoriasis are three times as likely to have bone loss, called osteopenia, and the bone disease osteoporosis. It also raises your risk of breaking a bone.

That’s because chronic inflammation can take a toll on your skeleton. People with psoriasis also tend to have low levels of bone-building vitamin D. What’s more, steroids -- a common treatment for psoriasis -- can weaken bones over time.

Psoriasis raises your odds of getting osteoporosis by
30%

Psoriasis vs. Psoriatic Arthritis

These two conditions often overlap, but you can get one without having the other.

30% of people with psoriasis will also get psoriatic arthritis.

liver

Obesity, Diabetes, and Liver Disease

Psoriasis may affect the way your body metabolizes and stores energy. It puts you at greater risk for these conditions:

Feet scale

feet scale

Obesity.
People with psoriasis are more likely be obese. The connection goes both ways: Extra weight triggers inflammation, which can set off or worsen the disease. On the flipside, psoriasis may lead to weight gain. When you’re in pain, you’re less inclined to get moving. Research shows that people with psoriasis exercise less. Likewise, you may also soothe yourself with food and wind up overeating.

Type 2 diabetes.
Chronic inflammation plays a role in diabetes. It increases the level of insulin-like growth factor (IGF), a hormone linked with insulin resistance (when your body stops responding to the hormone that helps it turn glucose into energy), and diabetes. One study found that those with mild psoriasis are 11% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while those with serious cases have a 46% greater risk.

diabetic meter finger

diabetic meter finger

kidney

kidney

NAFLD.
Psoriasis makes you up to three times as likely to have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). That’s when too much fat is stored in liver cells, which may lead to liver damage. Chronic inflammation may cause fat to build up in the liver.

Psoriasis raises your odds of diabetes by 28%

Psoriasis raises your odds of heart disease by 59%

nervous system

Nervous System Disorders

Psoriasis boosts your odds for certain nervous system disorders, like Parkinson’s disease. Chronic inflammation may wear down nerve tissue. In Parkinson’s, the nerve cells in your brain break down, causing tremors, balance problems, and stiff muscles. One study found that having psoriasis increases your chances of developing Parkinson’s by more than a third.

lungs

Respiratory Problems

Chronic inflammation that affects your lungs can lead to breathing issues. Psoriasis ups your risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an inflammatory lung disease. COPD blocks airflow from your lungs, which causes breathing trouble, coughing, and wheezing.

Psoriasis has also been linked with obstructive sleep apnea. With this condition, your throat muscles relax and interfere with your breathing while you sleep. Symptoms include snoring and waking up gasping or choking, along with daytime sleepiness. Talk to your doctor if you have any signs of sleep apnea; the condition can lead to heart problems.

6%
of people with psoriasis will also develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

immune

Immune System Disorders

Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, having it paves the way for other immune system disorders. These include:

Celiac disease. In celiac disease, your immune system overreacts to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This triggers diarrhea, stomach pain, and fatigue; over time, it damages your small intestine.

Systemic sclerosis. This autoimmune disease causes your connective tissue and skin to harden and tighten. It can affect your digestive tract and organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys. It’s also called systemic scleroderma.

Inflammatory bowel disease. This refers to a group of disorders where the digestive tract becomes inflamed. The main types are ulcerative colitis, which involves the lining of your large intestine, and Crohn’s disease, which can affect any part of your gastrointestinal tract. These diseases cause diarrhea, stomach pain, rectal bleeding, and fatigue.

eye

Eye Inflammation

It’s common for people with psoriasis to come down with an eye issue. The tissue in your eye or eyelid can become inflamed, causing one of the following conditions:

Conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva is a thin membrane that covers the whites of your eyes and eyelids. When it becomes inflamed, it’s called conjunctivitis. Symptoms include redness, itchiness, tears, and a gritty feeling.

Blepharitis. Inflamed eyelids are called blepharitis. This often happens because the tiny oil glands at the bottom of your eyelashes become clogged. This leads to red, irritated, and itchy eyelids. Your eyelashes may have dandruff-like flakes and crust.

Uveitis. This condition occurs when the middle tissue of your eye wall, called the uvea, becomes inflamed. It can cause eye pain, redness, and sensitivity to light. Your vision may also become blurry. Without treatment, uveitis may lead to permanent damage to your eyes.

Treating Blepharitis at Home

70% of people with psoriasis will also develop eye inflammation.

brain

Mental Health Issues

Psoriasis can take a toll on your mental health. You may feel self-conscious about your skin symptoms. This can chip away at your confidence, body image, and quality of life.

So, it makes sense that psoriasis goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. Nearly 60% of people with psoriasis suffer from depression. Along with low self-esteem, the discomfort and pain of symptoms are also a mental hurdle.

What’s more, psoriasis can actually alter your mood and brain chemistry. Research shows that it raises levels of inflammatory proteins, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), that are linked with depression.

60%
of people with psoriasis will also develop major depression.

kidney

Kidney Disease

Your kidneys filter out waste and extra fluid from your blood. In kidney disease, they stop working correctly. This can cause symptoms such as fatigue, swelling, nausea, and high blood pressure. Research shows that moderate to severe psoriasis can set the stage for kidney disease. Having severe psoriasis nearly doubles your risk.