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What is Psoriasis?   

By Melanie A. Warycha, MD FAAD | Dermatology

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, approximately 7.5 million people in the U.S. have psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells causing the development of thick red plaques on the skin with overlying silvery scales.

Plaques are typically found on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp; however, psoriasis can develop anywhere on the body, including nails and skin folds. Psoriasis is not contagious and cannot be transmitted to others.

Psoriasis typically occurs in adults; however, children can also be susceptible. About 80-90% of people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis and 10-20% of those with psoriasis end up developing psoriatic arthritis, an inflammatory type of arthritis. Psoriasis can be associated with a number of other co-morbidities as well, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune conditions, to name a few.

Risk Factors for Psoriasis

  • Genetics
  • Certain medications
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Streptococcal and HIV infection
  • Excessive alcohol consumption


Psoriasis is treatable but the method of treatment will vary depending on the severity, location, and how much of the skin is affected. Treatment options include:

  • Topical therapies (emollients, medicated creams, medicated ointments)
  • Systemic medications
  • Ultraviolet light therapy

If you suspect you may be suffering from psoriasis or if you’d like to learn more about your treatment options, consult your dermatologist.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Dermatology, and National Psoriasis Foundation