Treating Psoriasis (suh-RAHY-uh-sis)

Psoriasis is one of the most common skin conditions treated by dermatologists. It is estimated that 1 in 30 people will acquire psoriasis during their lifetime. Psoriasis is primarily a disease of inflammation; white blood cells that usually exist to help people fight infections have messed up and instead are attacking the skin. Unfortunately, it is still unclear why this mistake occurs in susceptible people, and usually after it starts there is no permanent cure. It is not contagious and cannot be "spread" between people, but there is a complex genetic predisposition to its cause, and so it can run in families.

Psoriasis is variable in how it presents on the skin, but it usually exists as pink to red scaly patches and bumps. The scalp, elbows, and knees are the most commonly involved areas, although it can affect any and sometimes all body sites in some people. Sometimes it involves nails, leading to pits, grooves, and discolorations. Sometimes it coexists with inflammatory arthritis, leading to red, swollen, stiff and tender joints, and sometimes disfiguring changes. For still unclear reasons, some people with psoriasis are at higher risk for acquiring other health conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, and heart disease.

Psoriasis tends to wax and wane and cycles through flares and periods of remission, or temporary clearance. Many people have obvious triggers of flares, such as strep throat or other infections, severe emotional or physical stress, sunburn or severe dry skin, or sudden withdrawal of systemic steroids. Other people are never able to identify an obvious trigger.

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What are the treatments for psoriasis?

Treatment for psoriasis depends on many factors, including severity of disease, locations of the body involved, the presence of coexisting nail psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, and overall psychological impact. Fortunately, there are many options available for treating psoriasis, including topical medications applied regularly at home, office-based or home light therapy (ultraviolet radiation) specifically designed for treating inflammation, and medicines taken by mouth or injection that calm inflammation from the inside-out.

If you have psoriasis or another rash that is causing you physical or psychological discomfort, please make an appointment with our dermatologist to discuss appropriate treatment options for you.

Individual results may vary.

For more information about psoriasis, visit the National Psoriasis Foundation website at:

Medical Dermatology