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This common autoimmune condition is often confused with other skin conditions.

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Psoriasis is a relatively common condition, occurring in roughly 2% of people in the United States. It is thought to represent an immune system disorder, leading to inflammation within the body and at the skin surface, and lasts for the lifetime of those affected. Interestingly, individuals may be unaware that they have psoriasis, as this condition resembles more than 50 other skin conditions.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

The inflammation associated with psoriasis causes skin cells in certain areas of the body to grow at a fast rate and may even lead to joint swelling and pain. Some of the most common signs and symptoms are:

      • Areas of red, inflamed skin covered with thick, silvery scale
      • Rashes on the scalp, elbows, knees, and/or groin
      • Discoloration and pitting of nails on fingers and toes
      • Joint swelling and pain

What are the different types of psoriasis?

The most common type of psoriasis, affecting 8 out of 10 people, is called plaque psoriasis. It causes areas of thick, silvery colored plaques on the skin. Guttate psoriasis causes a rash made up small, red bumps, distributed all over the body, and often occurs following an infection. Inverse psoriasis causes red, scaly patches that form in the folds of the skin, such as in the groin and under the breasts. Pustular psoriasis presents as pus-filled blisters on the skin. These pustules may develop within normal plaques of psoriasis or occur on the palms and soles. Erythrodermic psoriasis presents as widespread peeling, burning, and inflammation of the skin, and is often associated with a fever. Psoriatic arthritis may occur with or without skin psoriasis. It typically presents as stiff, painful, swollen joints.

How does psoriasis differ from other skin conditions?

The skin condition most often confused with psoriasis is eczema. These two conditions have similar symptoms, but they are not the same. In contrast to psoriasis, the inflammation seen in eczema is localized to the skin and does not involve the joints.

Here are some of the similarities and differences between the two:

      • How they feel. Although both conditions may cause intensely itchy skin, psoriasis is also usually accompanied by burning or stinging pain.
      • How they look. Both conditions may make your skin look red and inflamed. However, rashes associated with psoriasis are usually more well defined and are associated with a thicker, silvery appearing scale compared to rashes seen in eczema.

Where on the skin does psoriasis commonly occur?

Although you can find plaques just about anywhere on the body, the most common places are on the scalp, elbows, knees, and groin.

Is psoriasis contagious?

No. The condition is not transmittable from person to person.

Are there specific triggers that cause psoriasis to flare up?

Common psoriasis triggers include stress, infections, and certain medications. Cold, dry weather may also exacerbate psoriasis. In some people, any type of skin injury, such as a cut, burn, or bruise, can trigger a flare. In addition, alcohol and smoking (or being around smoke) may worsen symptoms.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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