What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a condition that causes the body to make new skin cells in days rather than weeks. As these cells pile up on the surface of the skin, you may see thick, scaly patches. When a patient with psoriasis does not shed these excess cells, patches of the disease appear. It is a genetic condition and cannot be caught through physical contact.

What are the different types of psoriasis?

This condition falls into five categories:

  • Plaque (psoriasis vulgaris)— Those thick, scaly patches that develop on the skin are called plaques (placks). About 80% to 90% of people living with psoriasis get plaques, so they have plaque (plack) psoriasis.
  • Inverse (intertriginous psoriasis or flexural psoriasis)—Inverse psoriasis only forms in areas where skin touches skin, such as the armpits, groin, or underneath the breasts. It causes smooth, bright-red patches of raw-feeling skin.
  • Guttate— More common among young adults and children, guttate psoriasis usually occurs with a sudden onset. This occurs most often after a streptococcal pharyngitis infection and appears as drop-like lesions.
  • Pustular— This type of psoriasis causes pus-filled bumps to develop on the skin. Most often, the bumps appear on the hands, feet, or both. When the bumps cover larger areas of skin, a person has generalized pustular psoriasis.  This usually occurs after someone already has another type of psoriasis, such as plaque psoriasis, on the skin.
  • Erythrodermic (exfoliative psoriasis)—  Some people who have severe plaque psoriasis see their plaque psoriasis turn into erythrodermic psoriasis. This can happen when:
    • Severe plaque psoriasis isn’t well-controlled.
    • A trigger, such as getting a serious sunburn or having an allergic reaction, turns severe plaque psoriasis into erythrodermic psoriasis.
    • You stop taking a medication, such as a corticosteroid pills or cyclosporine, too quickly.

When erythrodermic psoriasis develops, it causes redness that develops on most of the skin. The skin may look as though it’s been badly burned. Chills, a fever, and dehydration are also common. These symptoms can be life-threatening, making emergency medical care necessary.

How is psoriasis treated?

  • Systemic therapies — Oral medications are often prescribed. These require regular monitoring through blood work and sometimes, a liver biopsy. Since the drugs used cause severe birth defects, they aren’t prescribed to pregnant women.
  • Cyclosporine — Slows the growth of skin cells by directly suppressing the immune system, but it’s limited to nine to 12 months of treatment. Regular monitoring when using cyclosporine is required.
  • Biological injectable — Some biologicals can be self-administered, while others must be given by a physician or medical staff.
  • UVB Light Therapy