Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease. It develops when a person’s immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly. New skin cells form in days rather than weeks. The body does not shed these excess skin cells. The skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin, causing patches of psoriasis to appear.
Psoriasis may look contagious, but it's not.
You cannot get psoriasis from touching someone who has it. To get psoriasis, a person must inherit the genes that cause it.
Types of psoriasis
If you have psoriasis, you will have one or more of these types:
- Plaque (also called psoriasis vulgaris).
- Inverse (also called flexural psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis).
- Erythrodermic (also called exfoliative psoriasis).
Some people get more than one type. Sometimes a person gets one type of psoriasis, and then the type of psoriasis changes.
There are several forms of psoriasis, and each form has unique characteristics that allow dermatologists to visually identify psoriasis to determine what type, or types, of psoriasis is present. Sometimes a skin biopsy will be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
To diagnose psoriasis, we will:
- Examine a patient’s skin, nails, and scalp for signs of psoriasis.
- Ask whether family members have psoriasis.
- Learn about what has been happening in the patient’s life. A dermatologist may want to know whether a patient has been under a lot of stress, had a recent illness, or just started taking a medicine.
Sometimes we will also removes a bit of skin. By looking at the removed skin under a microscope, one can confirm whether a person has psoriasis.
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis. However, there are many treatment options that can clear psoriasis for a period of time. Each treatment has advantages and disadvantages, and what works for one patient may not be effective for another. Board-certified dermatologists have the medical training and experience needed to determine the most appropriate treatments for each patient.
To choose the most appropriate treatment method, we consider several factors:
- Type of psoriasis
- Severity (the amount of skin affected)
- Where psoriasis is located
- Patient’s age and medical history
- Effects psoriasis has on patient’s overall physical and emotional well-being
Treating psoriasis has benefits. Treatment can reduce signs and symptoms of psoriasis, which usually makes a person feel better. With treatment, some people see their skin completely clear. Treatment can even improve a person's quality of life.
Psoriasis treatments fall into 3 categories:
- Topical (applied to the skin) – Mild to moderate psoriasis
- Phototherapy (light, usually ultraviolet, applied to the skin) – Moderate to severe psoriasis
- Systemic (taken orally or by injection or infusion) – Moderate, severe or disabling psoriasis
Thanks to ongoing research, there are many treatments for psoriasis. It is important to work with a dermatologist to find treatment that works for you and fits your lifestyle. Every treatment has benefits, drawbacks, and possible side effects.
Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system. It cannot be cured. This means that most people have psoriasis for life. By teaming up with a dermatologist who treats psoriasis, you can find a treatment plan that works for you.
Dermatologists encourage their patients who have psoriasis to take an active role in managing this disease. By taking an active role, you can reduce the effects that psoriasis has on your quality of life.