Frequently asked questions

What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. Although it most frequently affects the elbows, knees, and scalp, it may appear anywhere on the skin.
Who gets psoriasis?
Psoriasis can affect anyone. It most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 30, but it can occur at any age. Psoriasis affects as many as 7.5 million people in the United States.
What are the symptoms of psoriasis?
The main symptom of psoriasis is red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. Other symptoms may include dry, cracked skin that may bleed; itching, burning or soreness; thickened, pitted or ridged nails; and/or swollen/stiff joints. Psoriasis may also be associated with other conditions such as diabetes, depression, and heart disease.
What causes psoriasis?
Psoriasis is caused by an immune dysfunction in which skin cells develop too quickly. It is not contagious, and it tends to run in families. Males and females develop psoriasis at equal rates, and it occurs in all racial groups. It most often occurs between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can occur at any age.
While skin cells are usually replaced every month or so, cells grow and move to the surface of the skin every three to four days in patients with psoriasis. The buildup of old cells leads to the silvery scales typical of psoriasis, which may cause itching and burning.
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
A skin doctor (dermatologist) will examine your skin and look at your medical history to arrive at a diagnosis of psoriasis.  In rarer cases, the doctor may take a section of the affected skin (a biopsy) and examine it under the microscope.
How are mild, moderate, and severe psoriasis determined?
Mild psoriasis affects less than 3% of the body. To make this clearer, look at the surface of your hand, including the fingers; this area is equal to about 1% of body surface area. Moderate psoriasis affects 3–10% of the body, and severe psoriasis affects over 10% of the body. However, psoriasis severity may also be measured by how psoriasis affects a person’s quality of life. Psoriasis that affects particularly useful areas—hands, face, or feet—may be considered more troublesome. Treatment options frequently depend on the level of severity.
How is psoriasis treated?
For mild cases, topical agents such as moisturizers and over-the-counter or prescription creams and shampoos are usually used. For moderate cases, a combination of treatments is typically used, which may include options such as light or laser therapy. For more severe cases, systemic medications, including biologic medications, are often used, particularly when psoriasis significantly impacts quality of life.
What is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic Arthritis occurs frequently in patients with psoriasis and involves joint inflammation and pain. If left untreated it can eventually cause disability.
Can psoriasis be cured?
Unfortunately, psoriasis cannot be cured. However, treatment can significantly reduce symptoms, even in severe cases.
• Cleveland Clinic. Psoriasis: Frequently Asked Questions. Available at
• National Psoriasis Foundation.  About Psoriasis.  Available at

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