Psoriasis 

Introduction 

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects around 2% of people in the UK. A skin expert describes the impact psoriasis can have on quality of life and the treatment options available.

Media last reviewed: 04/12/2012

Next review due: 04/12/2014

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back but can appear anywhere on your body. Most people are only affected in small patches. In some cases, the patches can be itchy or sore.

Psoriasis affects around 2% of people in the UK. It can start at any age, but most often develops in adults under 35 years old. The condition affects men and women equally.

The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some people, it is just a minor irritation, for others it has a major impact on their quality of life.

Psoriasis is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that usually involves periods when you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by periods when symptoms are more severe.

Read more about the symptoms of psoriasis.

When to seek medical advice

You should see your GP if you think you may have psoriasis. They can often diagnose the condition based on the appearance of your skin.

Further tests are usually only necessary if the diagnosis is uncertain, in which case you may be referred to a specialist in skin conditions called a dermatologist.

Read more about diagnosing psoriasis.

Why it happens

Psoriasis occurs when the process by which the body produces skin cells is accelerated. Skin cells are normally made and replaced every three to four months, but in psoriasis this process only lasts about three to seven days. The resulting build-up of skin cells is what creates the patches associated with psoriasis.

Although the process is not fully understood, it is thought the increased production of skin cells is related to a problem with the immune system. The immune system is your body's defence against disease and infection, but in people with psoriasis it attacks healthy skin cells by mistake.

As psoriasis can run in families, there is also thought to be a genetic element to psoriasis. However, the exact role that genetics plays in causing psoriasis is unclear.

Many people's psoriasis symptoms start or become worse because of a certain event, known as a trigger. Possible triggers of psoriasis include an injury to your skin, throat infections and using certain medicines.

The condition is not contagious so it cannot be spread from person to person.

Read more about the causes of psoriasis.

Treating psoriasis

There is no cure for psoriasis, but a range of treatments can improve symptoms and the appearance of the affected skin patches.

In most cases, the first treatment used will be a topical treatment, such as vitamin D analogues or topical corticosteroids. Topical treatments are creams and ointments applied to the skin.

If these are ineffective or your condition is more severe, a treatment called phototherapy may be used. Phototherapy involves exposing your skin to certain types of ultraviolet light.

In the most severe cases where other treatments are ineffective, systemic treatments may be used. These are oral or injected medicines that work throughout the whole body.

Find out more about treating psoriasis.

Living with psoriasis

Although psoriasis is just a minor irritation for some people, the condition can sometimes have a significant impact on your life.

For example, some people with psoriasis have low-self esteem due to the affect the condition can have on your physical appearance. It is also quite common for someone with psoriasis to develop tenderness, pain and swelling in the joints and connective tissue. This is known as psoriatic arthritis.

Speak to your GP or healthcare team if you have psoriasis and you have any concerns about your physical and mental wellbeing. They can offer advice and further treatment if necessary. There are also a number of support groups for people with psoriasis, such as The Psoriasis Association, where you can speak to other people with the condition.

Read more about living with psoriasis.

Want to know more?

Page last reviewed: 22/07/2013

Next review due: 22/07/2015

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Comments

The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Abercromby said on 16 February 2014

I have had moderate psoriasis for many years but have recently been diagnosed as hypothyroid - could there be a connection?

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Angelina124 said on 08 February 2014

My son has terrible psoriasis, he has been having light therapy since September 2013 3 times a week. Just before Christmas his dosage was increased. He saw a doctor on Monday and had some bloods taken, the doctor told him he might be deficient in something, which is why he isn't getting better, and might need a tablet once a month. My son wasn't very clear (he's 17 and didn't ask). What could this be?

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Sluggerbaby12 said on 07 September 2013

I have had it for 34 years tyres every thing was recently taking cyclosporine had to come off because my kidneys weren't happy and the psoriasis have come bac aggrressivly and my long thick black hair half way down my back has all but fallen out a very uncommon side effect feeling very depressed

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lassarus said on 31 July 2013

I have had psoriasis for many years and there have been times when both the symptoms and the doctors treatments have really gotten me down.
The worst part is the way people look at me when I they can see the scales especially in the summer.

There are some good natural remedies out there and although they don't cure my symptoms, they have helped immensely. Personally, I've found really good relief form dead sea salts, although they are a little pricey.

I think they are dermasolve or something and it has worked to sooth a lot of my discomfort.

If anyone else has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them...

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deejulian said on 29 August 2012

I was on phototherapy as well and it was quite good but it stopped working for me. I use a psoriasis cream with patchouli and manuka and it is the best thing I have tried apart from the phototherapy.

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babsrose said on 19 February 2012

I would like to query what the consultant stated about ultra violet light/ sunlight and the risk of skin cancer in the treatment of psorasis. Surely the latest research suggests that we in the Northern Hemisphere are not getting enough sunlight resulting in a deficiency in Vitamin D. It is now suggested that we should not cover ourselves in sun cream but to allow ourselves to get some sunlight. I have had psorisus all my life and received ultra violet treatment when in my teens. I know from experience that sunlight definitely helps me and can't wait for the summer. As a result, fortunately as a 72 year old my psorisis it is now minimal but I have to keep alert for any tiny outbreaks.

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flakey said on 15 August 2011

if anyone out there has psoriasis questions that the nhs dosnt list here please come find us on facebook, there is a closed group so you can keep any comments or questions private from your friends and an open forum.. the open forum is easiest to find as we have over 3000 members search psoriasis then narrow your search to groups we should be close to the top and have thousands of members ready and willing to help and support you.
I have had this for 15 years have been through many treatments, some successful some not so much. different treatments work for different individuals but the one thing that seems to work for everyone is a good support network, and that is exactly what we can be. psoriasis is not the end of the world, but it can feel like it sometimes. i was 15 when i developed mine and it sucked away all my self confidence, but i now have it under control and have a fantastic life living with it.

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su3 said on 04 June 2010

I was on phototherapy few years ago, it was very effective. My skin became smoother and the bumpy patches disappeared within weeks. But there were some disadvantages so i stopped.

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Jules66 said on 02 March 2010

Has anyone tried the Ichthyotherapy treatment (use of the Garra Ruffa fish)?

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