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What causes psoriasis symptoms?

Your skin is made up of layers of cells. Usually, the cells are created in the deepest layer of your skin and over a period of about 28 days, they travel upwards to the surface, where they die and then flake off.

In people who have psoriasis, the skin cells travel to the surface in only three to seven days. As a result, more skin cells are produced, which are not mature, so they do not die and flake off. Instead they build up and cause flaky, red and crusty patches, which can be scaly and itchy.

The patch of skin under the affected area is usually red, due to changes in the blood vessels that supply the skin. The vessels can widen and grow in number, causing the redness.

The knees, scalp, elbows or lower back are most often affected but psoriasis can affect any part of your body.

 

Who is affected by psoriasis?

Psoriasis most often first occurs in people under the age of 35 and can affect both men and women. How severe the psoriasis is varies from person to person, but it is a chronic, long lasting condition that currently does not have a cure.

The symptoms usually appear in cycles, where it flares up, before calming down again. These flare ups can sometimes be associated with triggers, which you can read more about what causes psoriasis.

Different types of psoriasis

There are several different types of psoriasis:

  • Plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris)

    This is the type that affects most people. The symptoms of plaque psoriasis are pink-red skin lesions that are itchy and sore and covered in silver scales.

    It can appear anywhere but elbows, knees, scalps and lower backs are the most common places for it to affect. It can also sometimes affect your nails.

  • Guttate psoriasis

    Guttate psoriasis often starts in young children or teenagers after a streptococcal throat infection. Symptoms include oval plaques on lots of different areas of your body, which are less than one centimetre in size. The sores usually disappear on their own within a couple of weeks. 
  • Flexural psoriasis

    This develops in the creases in your skin and shows up as large, smooth, shiny bright red patches, without any scales. It can affect your groin, armpits, under the breasts and between the buttocks or skin fold around your genitals.

    Symptoms are made worse by sweating and friction, or a build-up of yeast, so the condition can be uncomfortable in hot weather.

    This type is often accompanied by another form of psoriasis somewhere else on your body at the same time.

  • Pustular psoriasis

    Pustular psoriasis is rare and usually only affects adults. Symptoms include pus-filled blisters, which can look infectious, but they are not. It’s most common on the palms of hands and soles of the feet.

  • Erythrodermic psoriasis

    Erythrodermic psoriasis is rare but very serious. It affects almost all of the skin on the body. Symptoms include intense burning or itching. Your skin looks as if it has been burned and it will come off in sheets. This condition can make you very ill and cause further problems such as dehydration and heart failure. You need to seek urgent medical attention.