- Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes a rash with itchy, scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp.
- It is a common, long-term disease with no cure.
- It goes through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a while.
- Treatments are available to help you manage symptoms. And you can try lifestyle habits and coping strategies to help you live better with psoriasis.
- Common signs and symptoms of psoriasis include:
- A patchy rash that varies widely in how it looks from person to person, ranging from spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions over much of the body
- Rashes that vary in color
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Cyclic rashes that flare for a few weeks or months and then subside
- Psoriasis is thought to be an immune system problem that causes skin cells to grow faster than usual.
- It is a problem where infection-fighting cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake.
- Researchers believe that both genetics and environmental factors play a role.
- The condition is not contagious.
- Common psoriasis triggers include:
- Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
- Weather, especially cold, dry conditions
- Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
- Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Certain medications — including lithium, high blood pressure drugs and antimalarial drugs
- Rapid withdrawal of oral or injected corticosteroids
- These factors can increase the risk of developing the disease:
- Family history.The condition runs in families. Having one parent with psoriasis increases your risk of getting the disease. And having two parents with psoriasis increases your risk even more.
- Smoking.Smoking tobacco not only increases the risk of psoriasis but also may increase the severity of the disease.
- If you have psoriasis, you’re at greater risk of developing other conditions, including:
- Psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, stiffness, and swelling in and around the joints
- Temporary skin color changes (post-inflammatory hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation) where plaques have healed
- Eye conditions, such as conjunctivitis, blepharitis and uveitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Other autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, multiple sclerosis and the Crohn’s disease
- Mental health conditions, such as low self-esteem and depression
- Your health care provider will ask questions about your health and examine your skin, scalp and nails.
- Your health care provider then might take a small sample of skin (biopsy) for examination under a microscope.
- This helps determine the type of psoriasis and rule out other disorders.
- Treatment can be complex
- Topical therapy
- Light therapy
- Oral or injected medications
You and your health care provider will choose a treatment approach based on your needs and the type and severity of your psoriasis.
Lifestyle and home remedies
- Take daily baths. Wash gently rather than scrubbing your skin in the shower or bath.
- Keep your skin moist.Apply moisturizer daily.
- Cover the affected areas overnight.Before going to bed, apply an ointment-based moisturizer to the affected skin and wrap with plastic wrap. When you wake, remove the plastic and wash away scales.
- Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight.Ask your health care provider about the best way to use natural sunlight to treat your skin..
Lifestyle and home remedies
- Avoid scratching.It might help to apply a nonprescription anti-itch cream or ointment containing hydrocortisone or salicylic acid.
- Avoid psoriasis triggers.Notice what triggers your psoriasis, and take steps to prevent or avoid it.
- Stay cool.Being too hot can make your skin feel itchy. Wear light clothing if you’re outside on hot days. If you have air conditioning, use it on hot days to keep cool.
- Strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle. These include being active, eating well, limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Coping and support
- Coping with psoriasis can be a challenge, especially if the affected skin covers a large area of your body or is visible to other people.
- Here are some ways to help you live with psoriasis and feel more in control:
- Learn more about psoriasis
- Follow your health care provider’s recommendations
- Find a support group
- Use cover-ups as needed
- Reduce stress