woman standing in a grassy area with winter trees in the background. She is scratching a blotchy rash on her arm

What is Psoriasis: signs, symptoms, and treatments

August 24, 2022
5 minutes
Your Health

More than 8 million people in the US have psoriasis.

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month - the perfect time to emphasize the importance of educating, spreading awareness, and working toward a shared goal of finding a cure for this common condition.

What exactly is psoriasis? 

What sort of symptoms are common with this condition?

How is someone diagnosed? 

And what are some of the treatment options available?

In today’s article, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about psoriasis, so you can educate, spread awareness, and most importantly, participate during this month of awareness. Keep reading to learn more!

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a disease that affects the skin, creating itchy and scaly-like patches. It most commonly affects the knees, elbows, trunk, and scalp. 

It occurs when skin cells grow faster than usual. There’s no known reason for why this happens, but it’s presumed it’s caused by a problem with the immune system. The theory is that cells that fight off infections mistakenly begin to attack healthy skin cells.

Psoriasis is a long-term, fairly common condition. And at the moment, there’s no cure. 

But that’s one of the many reasons awareness is so important.

Psoriasis can be painful, making it hard to concentrate or even get a good night's rest. It's clear psoriasis has a physical impact on our health, but it can also affect us emotionally. It can cause an increased risk of anxiety and depression. And people with psoriasis may also feel the need to cover their skin and altogether avoid social interactions during a flare-up. 

The disease can go through cycles. It can flare for a few weeks or months, and then subside. And certain things may trigger a psoriasis breakout such as cuts, infections, burns, and even certain medications.

Symptoms and diagnoses

Some common symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Itching
  • Burning 
  • Soreness
  • Dry and cracked skin that may bleed
  • Rashes that flare for a few weeks or months and then subside
  • A variety of different colored rashes. On dark skin they may appear purple with scales of gray, while on light skin they can be pink or red with silver scaling
  • A patchy rash that varies in how it looks from person to person, it can range from small spots of dandruff-like scaling to major cases that cover most of the body

These are just some of the general symptoms. There are many different forms of psoriasis, and because of this, the skin condition can vary in its signs and symptoms. 

Some different forms of psoriasis include: 

  • Plaque psoriasis - this is the most common form of psoriasis. It causes raised skin patches that are dry and itchy. Usually appearing on the elbows, scalp, lower back, and knees. There can be an eruption of many, or just a few.
  • Nail psoriasis - this skin condition solely affects the finger and toenails. Creating pitting, discolorations, and abnormal nail growth.
  • Guttate psoriasis - young adults and children are primarily affected by this form of psoriasis. It’s identified by small drop-shaped scaling spots on the legs, arms, or trunk. And it’s usually triggered by some form of bacteria such as strep throat.
  • Inverse psoriasis - mainly affecting the skin of the buttocks, groin, and breasts. This form of skin disease causes smooth formations of inflamed skin that can worsen from sweat or friction. Fungal infections may be a trigger.  
  • Pustular psoriasis - this is a rarer type of psoriasis. It causes pus-filled blisters and can occur in small patches or widespread formations. One form is found primarily on the palms of your hand or soles of your feet.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis - this is the least common form. It creates a peeling rash that can cover the entire body. It may itch or burn intensely, and those affected by it could experience it for short or long-term periods of time. 

Understanding the symptoms can help you take proper action to get a diagnosis. 

A health care provider will examine your skin, nails, and scalp and ask questions about your health in order to diagnose the issue. 

In some cases, they might take a small sample of skin for more examination under a microscope. Doing this can help rule out other disorders and determine the specific type of psoriasis someone might be experiencing. 

Treatment options

What are the treatment options available?

There are a variety of treatments for psoriasis. Some of which include:

  • Light therapy 
  • Topical therapy
  • Alternative therapies
  • Oral or injected medications

Some different forms of topical therapy include:

  • Corticosteroids - this is used to treat mild to moderate psoriasis. These are the most commonly prescribed medications. 
  • Vitamin D analogues - these synthetic forms of Vitamin D (calcitriol and calcipotriene) work to slow skin growth. They’re sometimes used alone, or with topical corticosteroids.
  • Salicylic acid - Shampoos and scalp solutions with salicylic acid help reduce scalp psoriasis scaling. 

Forms of light therapy might include:

  • Sunlight - exposure to sunlight might actually help psoriasis.
  • UVB broadband - using controlled doses of UVB broadband light from an artificial light source can help treat single patches and widespread psoriasis. It can also help treat psoriasis that isn’t improving from topical solutions.
  • Excimer laser - this form of light therapy uses a strong UVB light targeting only the affected skin. Because a more powerful UVB light is used, excimer lasers usually require fewer sessions than traditional phototherapy. 

Some oral and injected medications used to treat psoriasis could include steroids, biologics, retinoids, methotrexate, and more. 

Studies also suggest certain alternative medicines not practiced within the traditional forms of Western medicine may help alleviate symptoms of psoriasis. Some of these alternative therapies include Oregon grape, fish oil supplements, and aloe extract cream. 

We suggest consulting with a health care provider if you’re considering using alternative treatments for psoriasis.

Conclusion - How to take part in Psoriasis Awareness Month

How can you take part in Psoriasis Awareness Month?

For starters, educating yourself is a crucial step you can take. Building knowledge around the topic allows you to help others and spread awareness. 

You can help others during this time by sharing information about causes, treatment, symptoms, and even certain triggers.

And you can even get more involved by participating in events or donating to causes working toward finding a cure.

So what are you waiting for?

Be sure to share this article with your friends, colleagues, and family so you can do your part and help spread awareness around this very common condition.