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Psoriasis is common, affecting 2% of people living in the United States (1). Inflammation in the skin causes cells to grow too fast resulting in thick, scaly skin patches known as plaques. Although psoriasis plaques may be unsightly, they are not contagious. Psoriasis can have a negative social and psychological impact. Although psoriasis affects the skin, it is not just a disease of the skin. The inflammation underlying psoriasis can affect many other body parts, including the joints.

Psoriasis is thought to be an immune system problem that causes the skin to grow faster than normal. The immune system attacks the skin and creates inflammation and stimulating growth. The causes of this immune system issue are unclear, but there are genetic and environmental factors. Certain things can trigger psoriasis including stress, bacterial infections, medications, smoking, injury to the skin, and more.

The most common symptoms of psoriasis are the development of plaques on the skin. Plaques are thick areas of skin that can be red and silvery. Common areas for plaques include the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp. These can be itchy.

Less commonly, psoriasis can manifest in the form of numerous small, scaly, drop-shaped lesions scattered across the body, a condition referred to as guttate psoriasis. This kind of psoriasis can occur after an infection like strep throat. Psoriasis can also affect the fingernails and toenails, resulting in discoloration and malformation. Other forms of psoriasis affect areas involving hands and feet, skin folds, armpits, groin area, and underneath the breasts.

Arthritis caused by psoriasis is an important and often under appreciated symptom. Most people notice psoriasis on their skin before developing arthritis, but it is possible to develop arthritis before skin lesions. Psoriatic arthritis may appear as a swollen or tender joint with pain and swelling, or morning joint stiffness that fades during the day.

Psoriasis is a condition that creates inflammation in many areas of the body, not just the skin. This inflammation can be a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke. This should be taken into consideration when seeking psoriasis treatment.

There are many treatment options for managing psoriasis. However, it is often a life-long disease. Although treating the psoriatic plaques on the skin is important, treating the underlying inflammation is also essential. Avoiding items that can trigger psoriasis is critical for disease management.

Topical Therapies

Corticosteroids are the primary option for reducing inflammation and itch. Steroids can be beneficial because they offer more immediate results. However, they should not be used excessively to avoid possible side effects on the skin. Lotions and creams containing salicylic or lactic acid can help soften thick plaques.


Phototherapy uses controlled ultraviolet light to calm down the inflammation in the skin. This treatment option can be useful when combined with other therapies.

Systemic Therapies

Systemic therapies are medications that affect the entire body, not just the skin. These therapies are most appropriate for more severe cases of psoriasis and those affecting the joints. The goal is to adjust the immune system and reduce the inflammatory process throughout the body. Biologic agents like adalimumab (Humira ®) specifically target inflammatory signals in the body. Oral medications like methotrexate and cyclosporine act by different mechanisms to modify the immune system and help alleviate the manifestations of psoriasis. New biologic treatments are constantly being developed to address the problems associated with psoriasis.

Schedule a dermatology appointment.

If you suffer from psoriasis, schedule a dermatology appointment today with Bliss Dermatology. Bliss Dermatology provides board-certified dermatology care. Bliss Dermatology is proud to be regarded as one of the best dermatology practices on the Gulf Coast of Florida, with offices in Venice and Englewood. Schedule a consultation today.


At a Glance

Michelle Pennie, MD

  • Board-Certified Dermatologist
  • Fellowship-Trained Mohs Surgeon
  • Founder and Lead Dermatologist of Bliss Dermatology
  • Learn more

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