A Beginner’s Guide to Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune (or autoinflammatory) disease that causes plaques, which are itchy or sore patches of thick, red, dry skin. The most common psoriasis plaques develop on the elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms, and feet. Autoimmune diseases refer to problems with the immune system, which usually fights off viruses, bacteria, and infection. The problem causes your immune cells to attack your body by mistake.

Psoriasis can be a frustrating and embarrassing condition to live with at its worst. Psoriasis plaques can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas. The disease’s symptoms and appearance vary according to the type and severity of psoriasis. If you suspect you are suffering from psoriasis, consult a doctor/dermatologist for the best form of treatment.

But here is a guide to symptoms, causes and treatment for psoriasis.


The symptoms and manifestation of psoriasis can vary from person to person as well as type of psoriasis. But common symptoms include:

  • Red patches or raised plaques of skin that are covered with silvery scales
  • Dry or cracked skin that bleeds
  • Burning, itching, or soreness near the affected areas
  • Pitted or thickened fingernails or toenails
  • Swollen joints


While the exact cause and root of psoriasis is unknown, some medical researchers have theories about why people develop psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, an estimated 10 percent of people inherit genes that increase their likelihood of getting psoriasis. Of those 10 percent, however, only about 2 to 3 percent actually develop the disorder.

In an article from Healthline, they state: “Scientists have identified about 25 gene variants that can increase your risk for psoriasis. These genetic variants are believed to cause changes in the way the body’s T cells behave. T cells are immune system cells that normally fight off harmful invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.”

As is the case with autoimmune diseases, T cells also attack healthy skin cells by mistake. The immune system reacts with the symptoms below:

  • the enlargement of blood vessels in the skin
  • an increase in white blood cells that stimulate the skin to produce new cells more quickly than usual
  • an increase in skin cells, T cells, and additional immune system cells
  • an accumulation of new skin cells on the surface of the skin
  • the development of the thick, scaly patches associated with psoriasis

Psoriasis Triggers

Psoriasis sufferers will learn their triggers as time progresses, but much like the symptoms, the trigger can be different for each person. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, these triggers may include:

  • Stress
  • Injury to skin
  • Illness
  • Weather
  • Others (allergies, foods, alcohol, environmental factors)


While psoriasis cannot be cured, there are effective options for treating it. Talk to your doctor about the benefits, risks, and side effects of any therapies you use.

  • Topical medication – Prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments that are applied directly to the skin can minimize symptoms of psoriasis. These therapies contain different active ingredients and come as lotions, creams, shampoos, gels, sprays, or ointments.
  • Biologics Biologic drugs alter the immune system and are usually given as an injection.
  • Otezla – This medicine comes as a pill and works by suppressing an enzyme that’s involved in inflammation.
  • Oral Retinoids – These types of drugs are usually given if you have severe psoriasis that doesn’t respond to other treatments.
  • Rheumatrex – This drug helps control inflammation.
  • Cyclosporine – This medicine suppresses the immune system but can be taken for only short periods of time.
  • Light therapy involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural or artificial ultraviolet light to help reduce symptoms of psoriasis. You may receive this treatment alone or along with other medication.