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The Basics of Psoriasis

August 18, 2020
Published in: Primary Care

Woman scratching her arm

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to form on the skin. It is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States, affecting over 7 million Americans.

Many people tend to confuse psoriasis for eczema due to their similar appearance but there are many differences between the two. One symptom that distinguishes psoriasis is the border which is well-defined, compared to eczema which tends to be flatter and have undefined edges. Location also helps when trying to tell the difference. Psoriasis typically affects the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp—though it can appear on any location. Eczema characteristically occurs on locations atypical for psoriasis, such as the front of the elbows or behind the knees.

There are five different types of psoriasis; plaque psoriasis, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. Each form has distinct characteristics and locations that help set them apart. Below is a list with some characteristics of each type.

  • Plaque Psoriasis: Most common type of psoriasis, it appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin.
  • Guttate: Second most common type of psoriasis, typically appears during childhood. This form of psoriasis is distinguished by its numerous small separate spots typically located on the skin around the trunk.
  • Inverse: This form shows up as smooth red lesions in body folds.
  • Pustular: Characterized by white blisters of noninfectious pus surrounded by red skin. The pus consists of white blood cells. It is not an infection, nor is it contagious.
  • Erythrodermic: A rare type of psoriasis, it generally appears on people who have unstable plaque psoriasis. This form of psoriasis is distinguished by its inflammation that often affects most of the body surface

Severity of psoriasis can range from mild to severe. Someone with psoriasis on less than three percent of their body would be classified as a mild case. People with psoriasis on three to 10 percent of their body are considered a moderate case. Anyone with psoriasis on more than 10 percent of their body is considered a severe case. The majority of individuals fall in to the mild category.

For treatment, individuals usually have much success with topical treatments, including moisturizers, and over-the-counter and prescription creams, ointments and shampoos are usually sufficient to control the plaques.

Many of the causes of psoriasis are still unknown and are not universal. However some established psoriasis triggers include but are not limited to: stress, skin injury, medications, and infections.

Lean more about psoriasis by visiting the National Psoriasis Foundation.

If you have concerns or questions about your health, contact your primary care provider or visit an urgent care.