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What is psoriasis?

what is psoriasis skin

Introduction to psoriasis

Psoriasis is a condition that causes red, raised patches with silvery scales to appear on the surface of the skin.1,2 These patches are usually on the elbows, knees, hands, feet, neck, face and scalp.1

Everyone’s experience of psoriasis is different.1 Symptoms range from occasional mild patches to large areas that itch, crack and bleed. It is a long-term condition. There is no cure for psoriasis. Sometimes you may not have any symptoms but at other times they may be severe.1

Psoriasis is not contagious. It cannot be passed by touching, swimming in the same pool, or intimate contact.1

You should talk to your doctor if you think you might have psoriasis.2

In psoriasis your immune system attacks healthy skin cells, causing them to constantly renew. Psoriasis patches are a result of increased skin cell production.3

There are different types of psoriasis, these include:1

  • Plaque psoriasis
    - Plaque psoriasis can affect your scalp, this is known as scalp psoriasis
  • Guttate psoriasis
  • Pustular psoriasis
    - Palmoplantar psoriasis is a type of pustular psoriasis4
  • Inverse psoriasis
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis

The symptoms for each are similar. However, patients with erythrodermic psoriasis may have a fever or become very ill. If this is suspected they should see a doctor immediately.1

What is plaque psoriasis?

Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis.1,5 Around 9 in every 10 people suffering from psoriasis have plaque psoriasis.5 Psoriasis plaques are red, raised, inflamed, patches of skin, usually with silvery scales.1,5 They normally occur on the elbows and knees.1

What is scalp psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is patches of psoriasis on your scalp. They can appear on the back of your neck, forehead and behind your ears.2 Hair loss is a common problem with scalp psoriasis. It is caused by damage to the hair from excessive scratching and combing.6

What is psoriatic arthritis?

About 15 in every 100 people who have psoriasis may also get psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis causes painful, swollen joints, as well as skin symptoms.1

What causes psoriasis?

The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown.1 It is a complex condition and it is thought that genetic and environmental factors play a part.7,8 Psoriasis has many possible triggers; stress, certain medicines, skin injuries, allergies, diet, weather, smoking and alcohol.1,9 Dyeing your hair does not cause scalp psoriasis.10

How many people are affected?

Psoriasis affects 2 or 3 in every 100 people worldwide. It is equally common in men and women.2

Psoriasis can start at any age, but most people develop it between the ages of 15-35.1,2 Three quarters of psoriasis cases happen before the age of 46.1 It is possible to develop the disease in childhood1,2 and in old age.1

The information you need to get your psoriasis under control

A psoriasis diagnosis

Being diagnosed with psoriasis can be a lot to take in. It can be a relief to learn that your condition has a name and that something can be done. However, many people find the relief is mixed with feelings of shock, fear, uncertainty and anger.11

If you have psoriasis you don't need to just accept it. Learning as much as you can about the condition will help you cope, whether you have mild, moderate or severe psoriasis.11

Treating psoriasis

If you have psoriasis it is important to moisturise your skin every day.12 Moisturising creams (or emollients) reduce redness and itching13 and help the skin to heal.12

The first treatment your doctor will prescribe is likely to be some form of topical treatment.5 Topical creams, ointments and lotions are applied directly to your skin.1

Phototherapy or oral medicines may be prescribed to people who do not respond well enough to topical treatments.5

For more information on treating psoriasis please visit the NHS website.
causes of Psoriasis

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

UK/IE MAT-25908 June 2021

  1. (accessed June 2021).
  2. (accessed June 2021).
  3. (accessed June 2021).
  4. (accessed June 2021).
  5. NICE guidance. Psoriasis assessment and management. 2012.
  6. (accessed June 2021)
  7. (accessed June 2021).
  8. S Segaert and M Ropke. J Drugs Dermatol 2013; 12(8): e129-37
  9. MP Schon and WH Boehncke. N Engl J Med 2005; 352(18): 1899-912.
  10. (accessed June 2021).
  11. (accessed June 2021).
  12. (accessed June 2021).
  13. SIGN. Treating psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. 2012.

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