Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis is not contagious.

There are five types of psoriasis. The most common form, plaque psoriasis, appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Types of Psoriasis

If you have psoriasis, you will have one or more of these types:
�     Plaque (also called psoriasis vulgaris).
�     Guttate.
�     Inverse (also called flexural psoriasis or intertriginous psoriasis).
�     Pustular.
�     Erythrodermic (also called exfoliative psoriasis).

Some people get more than one type. Sometimes a person gets one type of psoriasis, and then the type of psoriasis changes.

Psoriasis appears in a variety of forms with distinct characteristics. Typically, an individual has only one type of psoriasis at a time. Generally, one type of psoriasis will clear and another form of psoriasis will appear in response to a trigger.

Plaque Psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris)

Plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris) is the most prevalent form of the disease. About 80 percent of those who have psoriasis have this type. It is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by a silvery white scale. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.


Guttate [GUH-tate] psoriasis is a form of psoriasis that often starts in childhood or young adulthood. The word guttate is from the Latin word meaning "drop." This form of psoriasis appears as small, red, individual spots on the skin. Guttate lesions usually appear on the trunk and limbs. These spots are not usually as thick as plaque lesions.

Guttate psoriasis often comes on quite suddenly. A variety of conditions can bring on an attack of guttate psoriasis, including upper respiratory infections, streptococcal throat infections (strep throat), tonsillitis, stress, injury to the skin and the administration of certain drugs including antimalarials and beta-blockers.


Inverse psoriasis is found in the armpits, groin, under the breasts, and in other skin folds around the genitals and the buttocks. This type of psoriasis appears as bright-red lesions that are smooth and shiny. Inverse psoriasis is subject to irritation from rubbing and sweating because of its location in skin folds and tender areas. It can be more troublesome in overweight people and those with deep skin folds.


Primarily seen in adults, pustular psoriasis is characterized by white blisters of noninfectious pus (consisting of white blood cells) surrounded by red skin. There are three types of pustular psoriasis.

Pustular psoriasis may be localized to certain areas of the body, such as the hands and feet, or covering most of the body. It begins with the reddening of the skin followed by formation of pustules and scaling.

Pustular psoriasis may be triggered by internal medications, irritating topical agents, overexposure to UV light, pregnancy, systemic steroids, infections, stress and sudden withdrawal of systemic medications or potent topical steroids.


Erythrodermic [eh-REETH-ro-der-mik] psoriasis is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis that affects most of the body surface. It may occur in association with von Zumbuschpustular psoriasis. It is characterized by periodic, widespread, fiery redness of the skin and the shedding of scales in sheets, rather than smaller flakes. The reddening and shedding of the skin are often accompanied by severe itching and pain, heart rate increase, and fluctuating body temperature.

People experiencing the symptoms of erythrodermic psoriasis flare should go see a doctor immediately. Erythrodermic psoriasis causes protein and fluid loss that can lead to severe illness. The condition may also bring on infection, pneumonia and congestive heart failure. People with severe cases of this condition often require hospitalization.

Known triggers of erythrodermic psoriasis include the abrupt withdrawal of a systemic psoriasis treatment including cortisone; allergic reaction to a drug resulting in the Koebner response; severe sunburns; infection; and medications such as lithium, anti-malarial drugs; and strong coal tar products.

Psoriasis Causes and Known Triggers

Scientists believe that at least 10 percent of the general population inherits one or more of the genes that create a predisposition to psoriasis. However, only 2 percent to 3 percent of the population develops the disease. Researchers believe that for a person to develop psoriasis, the individual must have a combination of the genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific external factors known as "triggers".

Psoriasis triggers are not universal. What may cause one person's psoriasis to become active, may not affect another. Established psoriasis triggers include:


Stress can cause psoriasis to flare for the first time or aggravate existing psoriasis. Relaxation and stress reduction may help prevent stress from impacting psoriasis.

Injury to skin

Psoriasis can appear in areas of the skin that have been injured or traumatized. This is called the Koebner [KEB-ner] phenomenon. Vaccinations, sunburns and scratches can all trigger a Koebner response. The Koebner response can be treated if it is caught early enough.


Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes scaling and swelling.

Skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface.

Most psoriasis causes patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales.

These patches can itch or feel sore.

They are often found on the elbows, knees, other parts of the legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet.

They can also show up in other places; such as, fingernails, toenails, genitals, and inside the mouth.

Anyone can get psoriasis, but it occurs more often in adults.

Psoriasis begins in the immune system, mainly with a type of white blood cell called a "T" cell.

The "T" cells help protect the body against infection and disease.

With psoriasis, "T" cells are put into action by mistake and then they become so active that they set off other immune responses.

This leads to swelling and fast turnover of skin cells. People with psoriasis may notice that sometimes the skin gets better and sometimes it gets worse.

Things that can cause the skin to get worse include: infections, stress, changes in weather that dries the skin, and certain medications.

Psoriasis can be hard to diagnose because it can look like other skin diseases; so, the doctor might need to look at a small skin sample under a microscope to determine its existence.

Doctors are striving to learn more about psoriasis by studying: genes, new treatments that help the skin not to react to the immune system, and laser light treatment on thick patches.

Psoriasis is more than cosmetic because it is a disease which is common, chronic, and costly, both in monetary terms and in quality of life.

More than five million Americans have psoriasis, and they spend between $1.6 billion and $3.2 billion each year to treat the disease, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).

Between 150,000 and 260,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, including 20,000 in children younger than ten years.

Psoriasis can be painful and can be profoundly disruptive to a person's life. People who don't have it don't understand how burdensome the disease can be because there is a constant shedding of scales.

There can be functional impairment, itching, and pain with health complications; such as, arthritis which accompanies some cases.

There is no cure for psoriasis, but a broad range of treatments is available to reduce the symptoms, clear up the skin, and send the disease into remission by using treatments that range from creams rubbed into the skin, to lasers that aim ultraviolet rays at the skin, to the newest treatments: injectable drugs made from living cells.

Researchers continue to look for reasons why immune cells overreact and what genes may be responsible for psoriasis; hoping to find better treatments, and eventually a cure. Psoriasis research is aided by the visibility of the symptoms on the skin.

Multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes are just a few of the diseases that may also benefit from psoriasis research.

Psoriasis affects an estimated one percent to three percent of the world's population

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