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What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease. It most often first appears between the ages of 15 and 35. Psoriasis affects nearly equal numbers of men and women. In people with this disease, the skin grows too fast. Dead skin cells build up on the skin’s surface to form inflamed, thick, silvery scales called plaques. Psoriasis does not spread from person to person. But what causes this disease is unknown.

Closeup of fingernail with pitting. Arm with psoriasis patches.

About Your Symptoms

Psoriasis plaques tend to form on the elbows, knees, scalp, navel, arms, or legs. They can be unsightly, painful, and itchy. Plaques on the joints can limit movement. On the fingernails or toenails, psoriasis can cause pitting, a change in nail color, and a change in nail shape. In some cases, psoriasis also causes arthritis-like symptoms. Symptoms may come and go on their own. Factors such as stress, climate change, infection, and certain medications may cause flare-ups. If symptoms bother you, know that medical treatment can help relieve them. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor.

External Medical Treatments

There are many types of external medical treatments. These are used on the outside of your body. Your doctor may prescribe one of many types of topical medications, which are put on your skin. Or, coal tar (a thick black liquid) may be applied. In some cases, the skin may be exposed to a special light in the doctor’s office. Or, you can lie in the sun as directed by your doctor. This method is called phototherapy, which can be enhanced with the use of psoralen (a type of medication).

Internal Medical Treatments

Internal treatments are taken orally (by mouth) or given by injection. There are a number of oral medications. Your doctor can tell you more about these treatments.


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