What is Psoriasis?

It's easy to think of psoriasis as just a "skin condition." But psoriasis actually starts underneath the skin. It is a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system that can range from mild to severe.

Like most chronic illnesses, psoriasis may be associated with other health conditions such as psoriatic arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The good news is that there are available treatment options and strategies that can help you live well with psoriasis. Start here by learning as much as you can about psoriasis and exploring it from the inside out.

Underneath the Skin

To fully understand psoriasis, you need to see what’s happening underneath the skin.

What you're watching is an example of what happens underneath your skin when you have plaque psoriasis.

  • While symptoms may appear on the surface of the skin, what you can see is only part of the story.

  • With normal skin, your body takes about 28 to 30 days to produce new skin cells and shed the old ones.

  • When your body has plaque psoriasis, your immune system is overactive, triggering skin inflammation and causing skin cells to be produced faster than normal. New skin cells are pushed to the skin's surface in 3 to 4 days instead of the usual 28 to 30.

  • But your body can't shed the new skin cells at that fast of a rate. So while new skin cells are being produced, the old, dead skin cells pile up on top of each other.

  • As more and more new skin cells are produced rapidly, the old skin cells are pushed to the surface, forming the thick, red, itchy, flaky patches known as plaques.

  • The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown.

See what factors play a role in causing psoriasis

Psoriasis 101

Learn from a doctor about what causes psoriasis and what is happening inside your body when symptoms occur.

Dr. Menter is chairman of the Division of Dermatology at a prominent U.S. academic medical center. Dr. Menter is also a paid consultant of AbbVie.

See Psoriasis from the
Inside Out

Understand how psoriasis starts inside the body, before you see it on your skin.