Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes scaling and swelling. Skin
cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface. This process is
called cell turnover, and it takes about a month. With psoriasis, it can happen
in just a few days because the cells rise too fast and pile up on the surface.
Most psoriasis causes patches of thick, red skin with silvery
scales. These patches can itch or feel sore. They are often found on the elbows,
knees, other parts of the legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the
feet. But they can show up other places such as fingernails, toenails, genitals,
and inside the mouth.
Who Gets Psoriasis?
Anyone can get psoriasis, but it occurs more often in adults.
Sometimes there is a family history of psoriasis. Certain genes have been linked
to the disease. Men and women get psoriasis at about the same rate.
What Causes Psoriasis?
Psoriasis begins in the immune system, mainly with a type of white
blood cell called a T cell. T cells help protect the body against infection and
disease. With psoriasis, T cells are put into action by mistake. They become so
active that they set off other immune responses. This leads to swelling and fast
turnover of skin cells. People with psoriasis may notice that sometimes the skin
gets better and sometimes it gets worse. Things that can cause the skin to get
- Changes in weather that dry the skin
- Certain medicines.
How Is Psoriasis Diagnosed?
Psoriasis can be hard to diagnose because it can look like other
skin diseases. The doctor might need to look at a small skin sample under a
How Is Psoriasis Treated?
Treatment depends on:
- How serious the disease is
- The size of the psoriasis patches
- The type of psoriasis
- How the patient reacts to certain treatments.
All treatments don’t work the same for everyone. Doctors may
switch treatments if one doesn’t work, if there is a bad reaction, or if the
treatment stops working.
Treatments applied right on the skin (creams, ointments) may help.
- Help reduce swelling and skin cell turnover
- Suppress the immune system
- Help the skin peel and unclog pores
- Reduce cell turnover and swelling.
Bath solutions and lotions may feel good, but they rarely make the
skin better. They are often used along with stronger treatments.
Natural ultraviolet light from the sun and artificial ultraviolet
light are used to treat psoriasis. One treatment, called PUVA, uses a
combination of a drug that makes skin more sensitive to light and ultraviolet A
If the psoriasis is severe, doctors might prescribe drugs or give
medicine through a shot. This is called systemic treatment. Antibiotics are not
used to treat psoriasis unless bacteria make the psoriasis worse.
When you combine topical (put on the skin), light, and systemic
treatments, you can often use lower doses of each. Combination therapy can also
lead to better results.
What Are Some Promising Areas of Psoriasis Research?
Doctors are learning more about psoriasis by studying:
- New treatments that help skin not react to the immune system
- Laser light treatment on thick patches.
For More Information on Psoriasis and Other Related
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and
Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892–3675
Phone: 301–495–4484 or 877–22–NIAMS
(226–4267) (free of charge)