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Psoriasis

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on May 20, 2021

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that forms thick, red, bumpy patches covered with silvery scales. They can pop up anywhere, but most appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.

Psoriasis can't be passed from person to person. It does sometimes happen in members of the same family.

It usually appears in early adulthood. For most people, it affects just a few areas. In severe cases, it can cover large parts of the body. The rashes can heal and then come back throughout a person's life.

Symptoms

Psoriasis starts as small, red bumps, which grow bigger and form scales. The skin appears thick but may bleed easily if you pick or rub off the scales.

Rashes may itch and skin may become cracked and painful. Nails may form pits, thicken, crack, and become loose.

How Do I Know If I Have Psoriasis?

If you have a rash that isn’t healing, see your doctor.

Causes

No one knows the exact cause of psoriasis, but experts believe that it’s a combination of things. Something wrong with the immune system causes inflammation, triggering new skin cells to form too quickly. Normally, skin cells are replaced every 10 to 30 days. With psoriasis, new cells grow every 3 to 4 days. The buildup of old cells being replaced by new ones creates those silver scales.

Some things that can trigger outbreaks are:

  • Cuts, scrapes, or surgery
  • Emotional stress
  • Strep infections

Psoriasis isn’t contagious. You can’t catch it from someone else.

Risk Factors

You’re more likely to get psoriasis if it runs in your family. Certain genes make it more likely.

Psoriasis usually starts in adults, but children can get it, too. It’s equally common in men and women.  

Treatment

Luckily, there are many treatments. Some slow the growth of new skin cells, and others relieve itching and dry skin. Your doctor will select a treatment plan that is right for you based on the size of your rash, where it is on your body, your age, your overall health, and other things. Common treatments include:

Treatments for moderate to severe cases of psoriasis include:

Is There a Cure?

There’s no cure, but treatment greatly reduces symptoms, even in serious cases. Recent studies have suggested that when you better control the inflammation of psoriasis, the risk of heart disease, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and other diseases associated with inflammation also decrease.

Complications

Psoriasis makes you more likely to develop:

  • Psoriatic arthritis, which affects joints such as the fingers, toes, wrists, knees, ankles, and lower back. Most people with psoriasis don’t develop psoriatic arthritis, but 10% to 20% do.
  • Anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can happen if it affects your quality of life and you’re self-conscious about the condition.

Other conditions -- including heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes -- are more common among people with psoriasis. But it’s not clear why.

Home Remedies

Self-care for psoriasis focuses on taking good care of your skin, managing stress, avoiding other triggers, and keeping up with your treatment. There aren’t any supplements or herbal remedies proven to help.

Some key tips:

Don’t scratch your psoriasis. You can soothe your skin with a cold compress or an ice pack.

Moisturize.  You may want to pick a fragrance-free moisturizer that’s made for sensitive skin.

Wear sunscreen. Sunburns can worsen your psoriasis.

Practice stress management. Stress can trigger a flare-up of psoriasis. Try exercise, meditation, and spending time with people you like. If you’re feeling down or anxious about your psoriasis, look into therapy and treatment for help.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: "FDA approves new psoriasis drug Taltz," “FDA approves Amjevita, a biosimilar to Humira.”

Medscape: "FDA OKs Biologic Guselkumab (Tremfya) for Plaque Psoriasis."

National Psoriasis Foundation.

PubMed Health: "Psoriasis."

CDC: “Psoriasis.”

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases: “Psoriasis,” “Psoriatic Arthritis.”

Cureus: “Psoriasis and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Literature Review to Determine the Causal Relationship.”

Dermatology: “Psoriasis and Obesity.”

Psoriasis: “Type 2 diabetes and psoriasis: links and risks.”

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