Psoriasis - PIH Health

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Published on August 11, 2016



Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes red, raised, scaly patches on skin that can itch, burn or sting. It’s associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

While the immune system and genetics play a major role in developing psoriasis, the exact cause is still unknown. It affects men and women equally in all racial groups. It is not contagious or infectious and often develops between the ages of 15 and 35. A dermatologist will need to perform a biopsy of the affected skin in order to diagnose psoriasis.

There are five different types of psoriasis:

  • Plaque psoriasis is the most common. The skin has red, raised patches with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells that appear on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. They often crack and bleed while itchy and painful.
  • Guttate psoriasis is often triggered by a strep infection in childhood or young adulthood. This is the second-most common type with small, dot-like lesions on the skin.
  • Inverse psoriasis may appear smooth, shiny and red. It appears in body folds, such as behind the knee, under the arm or in the groin. Many people have another type of psoriasis elsewhere on the body at the same time.
    • Pustular psoriasis is characterized by white pustules or blisters of noninfectious pus, surrounded by red skin. The pus consists of white blood cells and is not infectious nor contagious. Pustular psoriasis occurs most often on hands or feet but can occur on any parts of the body.
    • Erythrodermic psoriasis is a rare but particularly severe form of psoriasis. It leads to widespread, fiery redness over most of the body. It can cause severe itching and pain and make the skin come off in sheets. It generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. It’s very important for individuals who have an erthrodermic psoriasis flare to see a doctor immediately as it can be life-threatening.

People who have psoriasis inherit one or more of the genes that could eventually lead to psoriasis but only two to three percent will develop the disease. Research has shown that a person must have a combination of genes and be exposed to specific external factors known as “triggers” in order to develop psoriasis.”

So, what triggers psoriasis? Unfortunately, triggers are not universal. Meaning, what causes one person’s psoriasis to become active may not affect another.

Following is a list of known psoriasis triggers: stress, injury to skin (such as sunburns or scratches), infection, allergies, diet, weather and certain medications.

According to Avanta P. Collier MD, dermatologist at PIH Health, “It is possible to control inflammation and itching that comes with psoriasis. Find the right lotions and ointments to keep the skin moist. Use a humidifier at home to retain moisture in the air. Take soothing, warm baths and gently pat the skin dry. Ultraviolet (UV) light can slow the growth of skin cells. Small doses can improve and even heal lesions. Learn to cope with stress. A healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, regular exercise and getting enough sleep will help to reduce stress. Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day.”

It’s important to work with your doctor to find the right treatment(s) for your psoriasis. Learn what options are available and work best for your condition. Keep trying until you find the right regimen for you. Treating your psoriasis is critical for good disease management and for good overall health.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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