Frequently Asked Questions
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis [pronounced sore-EYE-ah-sis] is a chronic (lifelong) disease of the immune system that varies from person to person, both in severity and how it responds to treatments.
Is psoriasis contagious?
Psoriasis is not contagious. It is not something you can "catch" or that others can catch from you. Psoriasis lesions are not infectious.
What causes psoriasis?
While the exact causes of psoriasis have yet to be discovered, we know that the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. Most researchers agree that the immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells among other immune reactions.
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
No special blood tests or diagnostic tools exist to diagnose psoriasis. A dermatologist (doctor who specializes in skin diseases) or other health care provider usually examines the affected skin and determines if it is psoriasis. Sometimes a piece of skin is examined under the microscope.
Is there a cure for psoriasis?
There is no cure, but many different treatments, both topical (on the skin) and systemic (throughout the body), can clear psoriasis for periods of time. People often need to try out different treatments before they find one that works for them.
What treatments are the best for me?
No single psoriasis treatment works for everyone, but something will work for most people. It is hard to predict what will work for a particular individual; however, it is important to be open-minded and willing to work with your doctor to find a treatment that will work for you. Learn more about treatment options for psoriasis.
Is all psoriasis alike?
No. There are various forms of psoriasis with plaque psoriasis being the most common. Other forms are:
- Guttate [GUH-tate], characterized by small dot-like lesions
- Pustular, characterized by weeping lesions and intense scaling
- Inverse, characterized by severe inflammation
- Erythrodermic [eh-REETH-ro-der-mik], characterized by intense shedding and redness of the skin.
Psoriasis can range from mild to moderate to very severe.
Can psoriasis affect all parts of the body?
Psoriasis most commonly appears on the scalp, knees, elbows and torso. But psoriasis can develop anywhere, including the nails, palms, soles, genitals, and very infrequently on the face. Often the lesions appear symmetrically, which means in the same place on the right and left sides of the body.
Can psoriasis occur at any age?
Yes. Psoriasis often appears between the ages of 15 and 35, but it can develop at any age. Approximately 10 percent to 15 percent of those with psoriasis get it before age 10. Some infants have psoriasis, although this is considered rare.
Is psoriasis more prevalent in men or women, or in different ethnic groups?
Psoriasis occurs nearly equally in men and women. It is also present in all racial groups, but in varying rates. Psoriasis prevalence in African Americans is 1.3 percent compared to 2.5 percent of Caucasians.1
1. Gelfand JM, Stern RS, Nijsten T, Feldman SR, Thomas J, Kist J, Rolstad T, Margolis DJ. the prevalence of psoriasis in African Americans: results from a population-based study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Jan; 52(1):23-6.