Psoriasis: Is This Chronic Skin Condition Curable or Controllable?

Psoriasis is a chronic and common autoimmune skin disease. When you have an autoimmune condition, your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. With psoriasis, your skin grows too fast, often forming thick, silvery scales called plaques. Or you may have small lesions that hurt or contain pus.  

While seldom serious, symptoms can be annoying and unsightly. Find out what can trigger psoriasis and steps you can take to treat and prevent future outbreaks.  

Who Is At Risk For Psoriasis?

Psoriasis occurs mostly in adults, especially between the ages of 30 and 39, and ages 50 and 69. It’s equally common in women and men, and appears in all races.  

While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe the condition develops due to a combination of immune, genetic and environmental factors. Psoriasis can be triggered by a skin injury, medicine, infection, stress, alcohol or tobacco. It may also be associated with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. It’s not contagious — you can’t catch it or give it to someone else.  

What Are the Symptoms?

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Symptoms vary depending on the type of psoriasis, which include: 

  • Plaque psoriasis (most common): Appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. The patches, or plaques, show up on the scalp, knees, elbows, genitals, and trunk.  
  • Guttate psoriasis: Generates small, dot-like lesions. It often starts in childhood and can be triggered by a strep infection.  
  • Pustular psoriasis: Marked by small white pustules (blisters that contain pus) surrounded by red skin. They can appear anywhere but occur most often on the hands or feet.  
  • Inverse psoriasis: Creates bright red lesions in body folds, such as behind the knee, under the arm, or in the groin.  
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis (rare and severe): Leads to widespread redness over most of the body, and can cause severe itching and pain. If you experience these symptoms, see a doctor immediately, as this type of psoriasis can be life-threatening.   

Psoriasis can mimic other skin conditions. See your doctor for a diagnosis if you experience any of these symptoms.  

While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe the condition develops due to a combination of immune, genetic and environmental factors.

How Is Psoriasis Diagnosed?

Health care providers can often recognize psoriasis by its appearance. Your doctor may confirm her diagnosis with a biopsy — by taking a small piece of the affected skin to examine under a microscope.  

How Is Psoriasis Treated? 

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition, but can often be controlled. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment option for you. She’ll help you choose from many new and effective medical treatments available to ease symptoms, including: 

  • External: Your doctor may prescribe a topical medication (a medicine that you put on your skin). These include creams that contain steroids, coal tar, or vitamin D. Ultraviolent light therapy may also banish symptoms. 
  • Internal: These medicines are taken by mouth or given by injection, and can be especially successful in treating more severe psoriasis. Ask your doctor about newer injectable biologic medicines.
  • Self-care: Help manage your symptoms by taking warm baths to soften scales. After you bathe, apply lotion to damp skin. Use relaxation techniques to lower stress, which can trigger flare-ups. If sunlight helps your skin, spend five minutes a day in the sun.

Call your doctor if your symptoms recur, and together you can develop a plan to get — and keep — your psoriasis under control.

Small Steps: Reapply Your Sunscreen Frequently
Put on another coat every two hours — or more if you’re swimming or sweating.