What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease in which the immune system works too much, causing patches of skin to become scaly and inflamed. Most often, psoriasis affects the:

  • Scalp.
  • Elbows.
  • Knees.

The symptoms of psoriasis can sometimes go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months followed by times when they subside (or go into remission).

If you have psoriasis, you may have a higher risk of getting other serious conditions, including:

  • Psoriatic arthritis.
  • Heart attack or stroke.
  • Mental health problems, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Who gets psoriasis?

Anyone can get psoriasis, but it is more common in adults than in children. It affects men and women equally.

What are the types of psoriasis?

There are different types of psoriasis, but the most common kind is plaque psoriasis. It appears as raised, red patches of skin that are covered by silvery-white scales. The patches usually develop in the same pattern on both sides of the body (for example, both elbows and knees) and tend to appear on the:

  • Scalp.
  • Trunk.
  • Limbs, especially the elbows and knees.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

Symptoms of psoriasis can be different for each person, but some common ones are:

  • Patches of thick, red skin with silvery-white scales that itch or burn.
  • Dry, cracked skin that itches or bleeds.
  • Thick, ridged, pitted nails.
  • Poor sleep.

The symptoms of psoriasis tend to come and go. You may find that there are times when your symptoms get worse, called flares, followed by times when you feel better (remission).

Some patients have a related condition called psoriatic arthritis, where you have stiff, swollen, painful joints; neck or back pain; or Achilles heel pain. If you have symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, be sure to tell your doctor as soon as you can, since the condition can cause serious joint damage.

What causes psoriasis?

In psoriasis, your body’s immune system starts working too much and causing problems. Doctors do not fully understand what triggers the immune system, but they know that it involves genes and environmental factors. Many people with psoriasis have a family history of the disease.

Other factors that may increase the chances of developing psoriasis include:

  • Some types of infections.
  • Certain medicines.
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.