5 Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 17, 2023
3 min read

The signs and symptoms of psoriasis can vary depending on the type of psoriasis you have. The 5 most common symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Rashes or patches of red, inflamed skin, often covered with loose, silver-colored scales; in severe cases, the plaques will grow and merge into one another, covering large areas.
  • Itchy, painful skin that can crack or bleed
  • Small areas of bleeding where the involved skin is scratched
  • Problems with your fingernails and toenails, including discoloration and pitting; the nails may also begin to crumble or detach from the nail bed.
  • Scaly plaques on the scalp

Psoriasis can also be associated with psoriatic arthritis, which causes achy, swollen joints. Between 10% and 30% of people with psoriasis also have this painful joint condition.

Every person with this condition has their own triggers. Things that cause your psoriasis to become active may not affect another person.

If you find out what causes your skin to flare up, you will be better able to control your symptoms.

Psoriasis is an immune system problem. Certain triggers may make your symptoms worse, including:

  • Cold, dry weather. Any climate that relieves dry skin will help. Try to spend some time in warm sunny weather and high humidity.
  • Stress. Keep calm and try to stay relaxed. Outbreaks are more likely to pop up when you are anxious.
  • Some medicines. These include some ”beta-blocker” drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease; lithium, a treatment for bipolar disorder; and pills taken to treat malaria. Tell your doctor if you have psoriasis and are being treated for any of these conditions.
  • Infections. There is a short list of infections including strep throat and tonsillitis that can trigger a special kind of psoriasis outbreak. It looks like small drops that show up mainly on your torso and limbs. HIV infection can also make it worse.
  • Skin Injury. In some people, the tiniest cuts, bruises, and burns can cause an outbreak. Even tattoos and bug bites might trigger a new lesion. You can wear gloves or put on an extra layer of clothes to avoid a break in your skin.
  • Alcohol. Drinking, especially heavy drinking in young men, may trigger or worsen symptoms and interfere with treatments. Combining certain psoriasis medications with alcohol can have dangerous side effects, especially for women in their child-bearing years.
  • Smoking. Using tobacco or being around second hand smoke raises your risk of getting psoriasis and makes existing conditions worse.

 

You can get psoriasis with all different skin colors, but it tends to look different on darker skin.

In African Americans, psoriasis is typically purplish in color with scaling that looks gray. In very dark skin, the psoriasis may also be dark brown and so harder to see.

Slightly lighter Hispanic skin tends to produce a dark pinkish-colored psoriasis and with a scale that looks silvery-white.

In addition, after psoriasis clears on these skin types, patches that are lighter or darker than the surrounding skin may remain for some time (dyspigmentation).

These are not scars, and they will clear after some time, though it can take from a few months to a year or longer. Your skin doctor (dermatologist) may be able to treat them so they clear more quickly. Ask about this if the appearance of the patches bothers you.