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What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis causes raised, red and scaly patches to develop on your skin.

Once you develop it, it will tend to flare up at certain times throughout your life. Doctors can’t cure psoriasis but they can usually recommend treatment to keep it under control.

In people who have the condition, their skin cells travel to the surface in only three to seven days, rather than the normal 28 days.

As a result, more skin cells are produced, which are not mature, so they do not die and shed. Instead they build up and cause patches on the skin, which can be scaly and itchy.

What are the types and symptoms of psoriasis?

There are several different types of psoriasis. The types of psoriasis are:

  • Plaque psoriasis – the most common type and often on the backs of elbows and the front of knees.
  • Guttate psoriasis - often in younger people and after certain types of infection.
  • Pustular psoriasis - on the palms of hands and the soles of feet.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis - a severe eruption over much of the body surface. It is very rare but potentially serious.
  • Flexural psoriasis - this develops in the creases of your skin.

Read more on the types and symptoms of psoriasis.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

Our online doctors can usually diagnose psoriasis during a video consultation and other tests are not needed.

In rare cases, you may be referred to a dermatologist, who is an expert in skin conditions.  They may ask for a skin biopsy if the symptoms are not clear or if confirmation of diagnosis is needed.

You can find out more about what will happen during your consultation, by clicking here.

What are the causes of psoriasis?

Psoriasis causes are not fully understood, but it is believed to be linked to:

  • Your immune system

    Your immune system creates T-cells which travel through your body to fight off bacteria and viruses. It is thought that in people who develop psoriasis, these T-cells mistakenly attack healthy skin cells, leading to psoriasis
  • Genetics

    Many people who have the condition also have a close family member with the condition, which suggests that it is inherited.
  • Environmental factors

    Some people carry genes that make you more prone to developing psoriasis. It is thought that certain environmental factors, such as an infection, can trigger these genes, leading to the condition developing.

Read more about the triggers and causes of psoriasis.

Psoriasis treatment

Although it cannot be cured, psoriasis treatments can usually help you manage the condition day-to-day.

There are many psoriasis treatments, and some of these include:

  • Topical treatments - these include creams, gels or ointments that can be applied to the affected skin. It may be a vitamin d analogue or corticosteroid cream. They are available from a GP.
  • Phototherapy - the skin is exposed to a type of ultraviolet (UV) light. A specialist will be needed to prescribe this type of treatment.
  • Systemic treatments - these are injected or oral medicines that treat psoriasis throughout your whole body. You’ll need to see a specialist for this type of treatment.

This is not a full list of treatments - a doctor will be able to recommend which is the most suitable for you and will explain how the treatment works, along with any side effects.

You may have to try a number of different treatments before finding what works for you. You’ll usually be started off with a mild one to see how your body reacts, then, if necessary, you may need to try stronger ones. There are some very strong ones available, such as methotrexate

Find out more about how psoriasis can be treated.

Psoriasis in pregnancy

Psoriasis does not affect reproductive organs, so the condition will not stop you from conceiving a baby. However, certain medicines are not licensed for use in pregnancy or by those who are breastfeeding. Certain medicines are also not suitable for men who are trying for a baby, so always speak to a doctor for more advice.

Many women find that their psoriasis improves while they are pregnant, which may be due to a rise in progesterone, while others say that their symptoms get worse, so it really can be different for everyone.

If you are worried about psoriasis flare ups during pregnancy, our doctors are here to help. They will provide all the reassurance and treatment advice you need.

Read further information about psoriasis in pregnancy.