Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(4):646

See related article on psoriasis.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis (say: sore-EYE-uh-sis) is a skin condition that causes pink or red areas on the skin with thick, silvery scales. It usually shows up on the lower back, elbows, knees, scalp, and nails.

Who gets it and why?

It’s not clear what causes psoriasis, but it runs in families. It most often starts in the late teens. Psoriasis is not an infection and cannot be spread from one person to another.

How do I know if I have psoriasis?

If you have a rash, your doctor may be able to tell if it is psoriasis just by looking at it. Sometimes, your doctor needs to take a sample of skin to be sure. Other skin rashes can look like psoriasis.

Psoriasis usually doesn’t hurt, but sometimes it can itch.

How is psoriasis treated?

Treatment depends on how big the rash is. For small rashes, your doctor may have you try a steroid cream. Sometimes, your doctor will have you use other prescription creams or lotions.

If the rash covers a large area, you may need to see a skin doctor who can give you special treatments or medicines.

You should keep your skin moist with over-the-counter ointments or creams (some brands: Vaseline, Eucerin) to make the skin less scaly.

What can I expect?

Psoriasis usually gets better with the use of steroid ointments. Your skin should get less thick and scaly but may still be red. Psoriasis comes and goes over time.

How can I prevent psoriasis?

Psoriasis can get worse with stress. Doing things to lower stress (like exercise or hobbies) may help prevent psoriasis. You also should stop smoking and limit alcohol.

Some medicines may trigger psoriasis, so tell your doctor what you are taking. Do not take oral steroids like prednisone without talking to your doctor first.

Where can I get more information?

National Psoriasis Foundation

American Academy of Dermatology

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