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Diseases & Conditions

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that produces thick, pink to red, itchy patches of skin covered with silvery scales. In black African-Americans, the rash may be the same color as the skin. The rash usually occurs on the scalp, elbows, knees, lower back and genitals and in the same place on both sides of the body. It can also occur in the fingernails. Psoriasis does not spread from person to person.

Psoriasis usually begins in early adulthood but it can start later in life. The rash can heal and come back throughout a person’s life. In most people, the rash is limited to a few patches of skin. In severe cases, it can cover large areas of the body.

The rash starts as…

Psoriasis starts as small red bumps. The bumps grow in size and scales form on top. These surface scales shed easily, but scales below them stick together. When scratched, the lower scales tear away from the skin, causing bleeding. As the rash grows large lesions can form. The silvery scales on top of these lesions are sometimes called "plaques."

The symptoms of psoriasis include:

As well as the symptoms described above, the rash may produce:

  • Intense itching
  • Dry and cracking skin
  • Skin swelling
  • Skin pain
  • Pitted, cracked, or crumbly nails
  • Loose nails

Less common forms of psoriasis

Inverse psoriasis

Psoriasis under the armpit and breast and in skin folds around the groin, buttocks and genitals.

Guttate psoriasis

Small, red, drop-shaped, scaly spots in children and young adults that often appear after a sore throat caused by a streptococcal infection.

Pustular psoriasis

Small pus-filled bumps appear on the usual red patches or plaques

Tips for improving psoriasis in addition to prescription medicines:

  • Use moisturizer.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps.
  • Apply oil or moisturizer after bathing.
  • Expose psoriasis to moderate sunlight.
  • Use a tar shampoo every other night.