What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that makes cells build up quickly on the skin’s surface.   Extra skin cells appear thick and slivery and are usually dry and itchy. They can also be painful.  It is a long-term disease that is chronic and can be better or worse at various times.  The purpose of treatment is to stop the skin cells from growing quickly.

There are several type of psoriasis including:

  • Nail psoriasis
  • Plaque psoriasis (the most common form of psoriasis)
  • Guttate psoriasis (characterized by salmon-pink drops. From the latin word “gutta”=drop)
  • Scalp psoriasis
  • Inverse psoriasis (found in body’s skin folds)
  • Psoriatic arthritis (that might affect joints and create swelling and/or stiffness)
  • Pustular psoriasis (white blisters/pustules)
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis (severe inflammatory rash that may affect the entire surface of the skin)

What are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?

Symptoms are quite variable but some of the most common ones include dry skin that can crack and bleed, soreness, itching, stiff joints, and skin with red patches or silvery scales.

Symptoms often cycle. They may flare up for weeks at a time and then be minimal for periods of time. It can even go into remission for long periods of time.

How is Psoriasis Treated?

Treatment for psoriasis attempts to stop skin cells from growing quickly or remove the scales.

There are three main types:

  1. Oral/injected medications: These are usually used when you are resistant to other types of treatment because they sometimes have serious side effects. They are often used for short periods and alternated with other options. They can include methotrexate, retinoids, cyclosporine, biologics that alter the immune system and other experimental drugs.

2. Phototherapy or light therapy: This involves the use of artificial or natural ultraviolet light on the skin. It can include natural sunlight, Goeckerman therapy, narrow band UVB therapy, regular UVB therapy, excimer laser therapy, or photochemotherapy.

3. Topical treatments:  These include ointments and creams that are applied directly to the skin.  They are usually used in combination with other therapies.  Topical treatments for psoriasis include: corticosteroids, anthralin, calcinerurin inhibitors, vitamin D analogues, topical retinoids, moisturizers, salicylic acid, and coal tar.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 25, 2017