To the aver­age indi­vid­ual, a rash is just a rash. But to the trained eye, you may be deal­ing with an inflam­ma­to­ry skin con­di­tion called pso­ri­a­sis. This com­mon prob­lem affects up to three per­cent of Amer­i­cans. All races and both gen­ders can be affect­ed, with more adults car­ry­ing this diag­no­sis than chil­dren. So how do you know if you might be one of those peo­ple? The fol­low­ing signs may be help­ful to know:

  • Pso­ri­a­sis tends to affect both sides of the body equally.
  • It may or may not itch.
  • The rash starts out look­ing like a pink or red spot that becomes cov­ered with a white or sil­very scale over a few weeks. This scale can some­times be loose and leave a mess on the patient’s clothes and sheets.
  • There is a ten­den­cy for the rash to be worse in areas that are trau­ma­tized or scratched.
  • The elbows, knees, scalp and tor­so are com­mon­ly affected.

We don’t always know why pso­ri­a­sis rears its ugly head. We do know there is a hered­i­tary com­po­nent which can be rather strong. Some peo­ple who have this fam­i­ly pre­dom­i­nance may come down with a sim­ple infec­tion such as strep throat and only a few weeks lat­er, their pso­ri­a­sis symp­toms can start appearing.

Long-term effects

Near­ly 30 per­cent of peo­ple with pso­ri­a­sis also devel­op pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis, which caus­es pain, stiff­ness and swelling at the joints, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the fin­gers, toes, knees and ankles. Although pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis can occur at any time, it most com­mon­ly devel­ops between the ages of 30 and 50. There are sev­er­al fac­tors that may influ­ence the onset of the dis­ease includ­ing genes, one’s immune sys­tem and envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions. It is impor­tant to under­stand that if an indi­vid­ual has severe pso­ri­a­sis, it does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that he or she will devel­op a severe case of pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis. In addi­tion, an indi­vid­ual may have few skin lesion, but could have mul­ti­ple joints affect­ed by the arthri­tis. Pso­ri­a­sis has also been linked to many oth­er sys­temic, inflam­ma­to­ry dis­eases. Recent research has shown that peo­ple with pso­ri­a­sis may be more like­ly to have heart attacks, strokes and oth­er seri­ous health problems.


Although there is no cure for pso­ri­a­sis or pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis, treat­ments are avail­able to alle­vi­ate the symp­toms, including:

Top­i­cal Treat­ments: Top­i­cal treat­ments are med­ica­tions applied to the skin and are usu­al­ly the first treat­ment option against pso­ri­a­sis. These med­ica­tions reduce the inflam­ma­tion asso­ci­at­ed with the dis­ease and improve the symp­toms and red, scaly appear­ance of pso­ri­a­sis. Many top­i­cal treat­ments are avail­able over-the-counter (OTC); how­ev­er some of the strongest and most effec­tive are avail­able by pre­scrip­tion only.

Pho­tother­a­py or Light Ther­a­py: Dur­ing pho­tother­a­py, the affect­ed skin is repeat­ed­ly exposed to con­trolled dos­es of ultra­vi­o­let light under med­ical super­vi­sion. Treat­ment is giv­en at the dermatologist’s office, a pso­ri­a­sis clin­ic, or at home with a pho­tother­a­py unit. This treat­ment must be admin­is­tered reg­u­lar­ly to be effective.

Sys­temic Med­ica­tions: Sys­temic med­ica­tions are used for patients with mod­er­ate to severe pso­ri­a­sis and pso­ri­at­ic arthri­tis who are unre­spon­sive to oth­er treat­ments. These pre­scrip­tion drugs are tak­en oral­ly or are injected.

Peo­ple with pso­ri­a­sis should also be screened for dia­betes, high blood pres­sure, abnor­mal cho­les­terol lev­els and oth­er fac­tors linked to heart dis­ease and stroke. If you sus­pect that you or some­one you know may be affect­ed, see a der­ma­tol­o­gist soon to get prop­er­ly diag­nosed! If left untreat­ed, pso­ri­a­sis can cause more seri­ous health problems.

If you have noticed new dry patch­es” to any body areas, you should get them checked out; they may rep­re­sent Pso­ri­a­sis and not just dry skin. If you think you have Pso­ri­a­sis or are strug­gling with it, talk to your pri­ma­ry care physi­cian or sched­ule an appoint­ment with a dermatologist.