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What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a noncontagious skin condition that produces red bumps that merge together into larger areas of thickened, red, scaling skin. The dry flakes of silvery skin scales are thought to result from the excessively rapid growth of skin cells.  

Studies suggest this is triggered by skin inflammation caused by dysfunctional immune cells.  Classic psoriasis commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp; however there are several forms. 


Some people have such mild psoriasis (small, faint dry skin patches) that they may not even suspect that they have a medical skin condition. Others have very severe psoriasis where virtually their entire body is fully covered with red, scaly skin.


Symptoms of psoriasis

Psoriasis typically affects the elbows, knees or scalp, though it can appear on any location. Some people report that psoriasis is itchy, burns and stings.


If you develop a rash that doesn't go away with an over-the-counter medication, you should see your doctor.


About 95 percent of the time, your dermatologist can make a psoriasis diagnosis just by visual inspection. She will consider where the raised, red, scales appear, if they have well-defined edges and how the rash responds to medication when making a diagnosis.


Psoriasis may seem similar to atopic dermatitis, but there are several differences:

  • Psoriasis plaques are well-defined; atopic dermatitis tends to be flatter with less well-defined edges.

  • Atopic dermatitis typically occurs on locations atypical for psoriasis, such as the creases of elbows or behind the knees. Psoriasis is most often found on the outside of knees and elbows, the scalp, the lower back, the face, the palms and soles of feet. It also can show up in other places, such as fingernails, toenails, the genitals and inside the mouth.

When biopsied, psoriasis skin looks thicker and inflamed when compared to skin with atopic dermatitis.



There are various ways to treat psoriasis and may involve biological treatments that are given by injection; systemics which are prescription drugs that work throughout the body; phototherapy or light therapy that exposes the affected skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis; and topical treatments like creams or ointments.


Psoriasis is considered an incurable, long-term (chronic) skin condition. It has a variable course, periodically improving and worsening. It is not unusual for psoriasis to spontaneously clear for years and stay in remission. Many people note a worsening of their symptoms in the colder winter months and improvement with sunshine.


Psoriasis affects all races and both sexes. Although psoriasis can be seen in people of any age, from babies to seniors, most commonly patients are first diagnosed in their early adult years. The quality of life of patients with psoriasis can be strongly impacted by the appearance of their skin. It is critical for patients with psoriasis to address health of the entire body as the dysfunctional immune cells have effects on cardiovascular disease and joints as well.  People with psoriasis are more likely to have diabetes, high blood lipids, and heart disease.


More studies are required to determine how this is related to joint and skin inflammation.  

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