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What Is Psoriasis?

Understanding as much as possible about psoriasis can be the first step in managing it. Empower yourself and face your disease head-on by familiarizing yourself with some basic facts about psoriasis.

Types of psoriasis

There are 5 major types of psoriasis you should know about.

  • Plaque
  • Inverse
  • Erythrodermic
  • Guttate
  • Pustular

For a more in-depth look at the different types, plus pictures of psoriasis, click here.

Psoriasis starts underneath the skin

Psoriasis is commonly mistaken as "just a skin condition." But it's actually a chronic (long-lasting) disease of the immune system. While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, scientists believe the immune system mistakenly activates a reaction in the skin cells, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells. Plaque psoriasis, the most common form of psoriasis, causes itchy skin spots, red patches, and thick flaky lesions to form.

In addition to symptoms that appear on your skin, psoriasis can also affect your joints through a related condition called psoriatic arthritis. Tell your dermatologist about any pain, stiffness, or swelling you've experienced in and around your joints.

Treatment options

While there's currently no cure for psoriasis, there are different treatment options available. Familiarize yourself with these treatments, and discuss with your dermatologist if any of them may be right for you.

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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 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.