Psoriasis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment


Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition characterized by rapid skin cell turnover, leading to the buildup of thick, scaly patches on the skin's surface. These patches, often red or silvery-white in color, can appear anywhere on the body but commonly affect the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. The condition is caused by faulty signals in the immune system that accelerate skin cell production. Psoriasis can be triggered or exacerbated by stress, infections, and certain medications. While there is no cure, various treatments can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for those affected by this persistent skin disorder.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Psoriasis, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.



Genetics: Family history plays a significant role, as individuals with a family member affected by psoriasis are at higher risk.

Immune System Dysfunction: Psoriasis is characterized by an overactive immune response, where T cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells, triggering inflammation and excessive skin cell production.

Environmental Triggers: Certain environmental factors can exacerbate or trigger psoriasis flare-ups, such as infections (e.g., streptococcal throat infections), stress, cold weather, and injuries to the skin (e.g., cuts, burns).

Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and obesity have been linked to an increased risk of developing psoriasis or worsening its symptoms.

Hormonal Changes: Changes in hormone levels, such as during puberty or menopause, can influence psoriasis severity.

Medications: Some medications, including lithium, beta-blockers, and antimalarial drugs, can trigger or worsen psoriasis symptoms in susceptible individuals.

Risk Factors

  • Genetics: Family history of psoriasis significantly increases the risk.
  • Immune System: Dysregulation of the immune system plays a key role.
  • Environmental Triggers: Factors like stress, infections (such as streptococcal throat infections), and injury to the skin can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, obesity, and excessive alcohol consumption are linked to higher risk.
  • Medications: Certain medications like lithium, antimalarials, and beta-blockers can trigger psoriasis or exacerbate existing symptoms.
  • Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormones, such as during puberty or menopause, can influence psoriasis.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Individuals with other inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease have an increased risk.
  • Age: Psoriasis can develop at any age, but it often appears between the ages of 15 and 35.
  • Gender: Psoriasis affects both genders equally, but the pattern of involvement may differ.
  • Ethnicity: Certain ethnic groups have a higher predisposition to psoriasis.


Red Patches of Skin: These patches are typically covered with thick, silvery scales and can appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.
Dry, Cracked Skin: The affected areas may feel dry, cracked, and sometimes itchy or painful.
Thickened Nails: Psoriasis can cause changes in the nails, including thickening, pitting, and discoloration. Nails may also detach from the nail bed.
Itching and Discomfort: Many people with psoriasis experience itching or burning sensations in the affected areas.
Plaques: Raised, inflamed, and red patches of skin, often covered with silvery scales, known as plaques, are a hallmark symptom of psoriasis.
Joint Pain: In some cases, psoriasis can lead to inflammation and pain in the joints, known as psoriatic arthritis.
Inverse Psoriasis: This type affects skin folds such as the armpits, groin, and under the breasts, causing smooth patches of red, inflamed skin.
Pustular Psoriasis: A less common form characterized by pus-filled blisters surrounded by red skin.

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Physical Examination: A dermatologist usually diagnoses psoriasis based on the appearance of the skin lesions. These are often red, raised patches covered with silvery scales, commonly found on elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back.
Medical History: Gathering information about family history of psoriasis or other autoimmune conditions can help in confirming the diagnosis.
Biopsy: In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis by examining a small sample of the affected skin under a microscope.
Psoriasis Severity Assessment: Doctors may assess the severity of psoriasis using scales like the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) or the Body Surface Area (BSA) to determine treatment options.
Differential Diagnosis: Psoriasis can resemble other skin conditions like eczema or fungal infections, so ruling out these conditions through clinical examination and tests is important.
Laboratory Tests: Blood tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions and to monitor for associated conditions like psoriatic arthritis.
Monitoring: Regular follow-up appointments help monitor disease progression and treatment effectiveness.
Patient Symptoms: Considering the patient's symptoms, such as itching, pain, or discomfort, helps in tailoring treatment plans to manage symptoms effectively.
Collaboration: Dermatologists may collaborate with rheumatologists or other specialists if psoriatic arthritis or other systemic complications are suspected.


Topical Treatments:

  • Corticosteroids: Reduce inflammation and itching.
  • Vitamin D analogues: Slow skin cell growth.
  • Retinoids: Normalize skin cell production.
  • Salicylic acid: Promotes shedding of dead skin cells.

Phototherapy (Light Therapy):

  • UVB Phototherapy: Targets affected skin with ultraviolet B rays to slow skin cell turnover.
  • PUVA Therapy: Combines psoralen (light-sensitizing medication) with UVA exposure to reduce inflammation.

Systemic Medications:

  • Methotrexate: Suppresses immune response and reduces skin cell turnover.
  • Cyclosporine: Suppresses immune system to reduce symptoms.
  • Biologics: Target specific parts of the immune system involved in psoriasis.

Oral Retinoids:

  • Acitretin: Derived from vitamin A, helps reduce skin cell production.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies:

  • Moisturizing: Helps reduce dryness and scaling.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Stress, infections, and certain medications can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Dietary Changes: Some find relief from reducing alcohol consumption and certain foods.

Alternative Therapies:

  • Aloe vera: Soothes skin and may reduce scaling.
  • Fish oil supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation.

Preventive Measures

Maintain a Healthy Diet: Include anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Manage Stress: Practice stress-reducing techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
Avoid Triggers: Identify and avoid triggers like certain medications, infections, or injuries that can exacerbate psoriasis.
Moisturize Regularly: Keep skin hydrated with moisturizers to reduce dryness and irritation.
Limit Alcohol and Smoking: Both can worsen symptoms; minimizing or avoiding them can help manage psoriasis.
Sun Protection: Use sunscreen to protect skin from sunburn, which can trigger flare-ups.
Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity is linked to a higher risk of psoriasis; maintaining a healthy weight can reduce symptoms.
Regular Exercise: Exercise promotes overall health and can help manage stress, which may improve psoriasis symptoms.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
Moisturize regularly with gentle, fragrance-free lotions or creams. Don't scratch or pick at psoriasis plaques.
Use mild, non-irritating soaps or cleansers when bathing. Avoid hot water, which can worsen skin dryness. Stick to lukewarm water instead.
Follow a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. Don't smoke or expose yourself to secondhand smoke.
Manage stress through relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Avoid alcohol consumption, as it can trigger flare-ups.
Consult a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Don't ignore symptoms or delay seeking medical advice.
Protect your skin from excessive sun exposure by using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing. Avoid harsh skincare products or those containing strong fragrances and chemicals.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Don't skip prescribed medications without consulting your healthcare provider.
Exercise regularly to improve overall health and reduce stress. Avoid extreme temperatures, as they can aggravate psoriasis symptoms.

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Psoriasis, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin, causing red, scaly patches to appear. It is a non-contagious condition that can vary in severity from mild to severe.
The most common symptoms of psoriasis include red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales, itching or burning sensations in affected areas, dry and cracked skin that may bleed, and stiff or swollen joints in some cases.
The exact cause of psoriasis is not yet fully understood. However, it is believed to be a combination of genetic factors and an overactive immune system. Certain triggers such as stress, infections, certain medications, or injuries to the skin can also lead to flare-ups.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for psoriasis. However, various treatment options are available to help manage and control the symptoms. These include topical creams or ointments, phototherapy (light therapy), oral medications, and biologic drugs.
No, psoriasis is not contagious. It cannot be spread from person to person through physical contact.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing psoriasis flare-ups as everyone's experience with the condition can differ; there are several strategies that may help. These include keeping your skin moisturized with gentle skincare products, avoiding triggers such as stress or certain foods if they worsen your symptoms; wearing loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers; managing stress levels through relaxation techniques; and following your healthcare provider's recommended treatment plan.
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