WHAT IS PSORIASIS?

Psoriasis plaque on elbow Psoriasis plaque on elbow Psoriasis plaque on elbow

A good place to start learning about psoriasis is beneath the skin’s surface. Many people think of psoriasis as just a skin condition, because that’s where you see and feel the symptoms. Take a closer look, and you’ll see psoriasis is a chronic disease believed to be the result of several factors, including an overactive immune system.

The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown. However, we do know that inflammation inside the body may cause the symptoms of psoriasis—including the itchy, red plaques you see on the skin.

Illustration of hands with psoriasis plaques Illustration of hands with psoriasis plaques Illustration of hands with psoriasis plaques

DEFINED: Plaques are the thick, red patches that appear on your skin, caused by the excess buildup of old skin cells.

While there’s no cure for psoriasis, science has come a long way in giving you options to treat it. Here’s more good news: the more you learn about psoriasis, the better prepared you’ll be to talk to a dermatologist about managing and treating it.

Image of a psoriasis specialist Image of a psoriasis specialist Image of a psoriasis specialist

Importance of a Dermatologist

Finding the right psoriasis specialist should be a top priority.

Learn Why ➜

The Immune System and Psoriasis

It takes most people with healthy skin about a month for their bodies to produce new skin cells and shed old ones. But when you have psoriasis, your body’s skin cells go through an accelerated cycle.

That’s because people with psoriasis have an overactive immune system, which causes excess inflammation. This inflammation forces your body to produce new skin cells at a much faster rate—about a 4- to 5-day cycle. That’s roughly seven times faster than normal. Skin cells rapidly pile up and get pushed to the surface, as your body is unable to shed them quickly enough.

Those skin cells become the scales and plaques you see on your skin—which can be silvery, red, itchy, flaky, raised, or inflamed. That’s how inflammation deep down in your body can contribute to symptoms all the way up to your skin’s surface.

Illustration of a person with glasses who has plaques on the back of their neck Illustration of a person with glasses who has plaques on the back of their neck Illustration of a person with glasses who has plaques on the back of their neck

DEFINED: Inflammation is the body’s natural defense system. In normal amounts, it helps your body heal. But too much and your body starts to attack healthy cells.

Psoriasis vs Eczema and Other Skin Conditions

FACT: According to a 2004 study, it is estimated that there are about 600,000 to 3.6 million undiagnosed cases of psoriasis in the United States.

One reason is because it’s commonly mistaken with other conditions such as lichen planus, seborrhea, ringworm, or eczema.

Close-up of psoriasis plaque Close-up of psoriasis plaque Close-up of psoriasis plaque

Psoriasis

Close-up of eczema Close-up of eczema Close-up of eczema

Eczema

Now that you know what psoriasis is, learn the
Causes of Psoriasis ➜