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How to identify—and treat—psoriasis NEXT ARTICLE 

How To Identify—And Treat—Psoriasis

By Brianna Bell


Skin irritations can wreak havoc on your daily life, whether it’s an allergic reaction to a new body wash, a patch of flaky dry skin, or a rash that develops when you spend too much time in the sun. Some skin irritations can be resolved by an over-the-counter cream and patience, but when a rash develops and doesn’t go away, it could signal a bigger problem. 


Psoriasis is a type of skin condition that is identified by skin redness and white flaky patches that might be itchy and painful. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, psoriasis is a lifelong condition that occurs because an individual produces skin cells too quickly. Research also indicates that an overactive immune system is the cause of this overproduction of cells—psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. 


To complicate things further, there are many different types of psoriasis with their own set of individual signs and symptoms, including nail psoriasis (symptoms concentrated on the nails) and psoriatic arthritis (swollen joints). You may have one type of psoriasis, or multiple. 


Signs of psoriasis include:

  • Patches of skin that are thick and raised

  • White or silvery scales 

  • Red bumps on skin

  • Smooth red patches that are often painful

  • Red skin irritations with white pus-filled bumps

  • Skin that turns red, dry, and itchy

  • Tender joints, or overall aches and pains

  • Fingernails and toenails that are dented, crumbling, or discolored 

How do you know if you have psoriasis?

If you have patches of irritated skin that are not resolving, then it’s best to see a doctor. A dermatologist or your primary healthcare provider will be able to diagnose psoriasis by looking at the skin lesions. In some cases, your doctor will take a sample of your skin lesion for a biopsy, this can help them provide the most accurate diagnosis. 


There is no one trigger that causes psoriasis, says the National Psoriasis Foundation, but many possible factors. Scientists also agree that those who eventually are diagnosed with psoriasis have a genetic predisposition.


A patient may develop psoriasis, or experience a flare-up of the condition, because of one of the following, or a combination:

  • Stress

  • Skin injury, including scratches and sunburns

  • Medications linked to psoriasis triggers, including lithium and antimalarials

  • Infection (especially strep throat, or any other infection)


Although it’s scientifically unproven, some patients say diet, weather, and allergies make a difference in their psoriasis.

How do you treat psoriasis?

According to Mount Sinai Hospital, there are multiple treatment options for psoriasis, and treatment for this skin condition isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. Treatments can be placed in three categories: topical skin treatments (like creams and ointments), pills or injections, or phototherapy (ultraviolet light). 


Topical treatments include creams or ointments with the following: 

  • Cortisone

  • Anti-inflammatory creams

  • Coal tar or anthralin

  • salicylic acid or lactic acid

  • Dandruff shampoo

  • Psoriasis-approved moisturizers 

  • Prescription creams with retinoids (Vitamin A and D)


For patients with more moderate or severe psoriasis, a topical cream likely won’t work. Instead, a doctor may prescribe a medication that can treat your full body, these include the following medications:


Finally, phototherapy is a treatment that requires medical supervision, but is an option for treatment. It’s important for the patient to remain consistent with their treatment, which typically requires multiple sessions per week, and is often not feasible for many psoriasis patients. 


If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis you’ll be faced with challenges that are unique to your condition. It’s important to reduce stress to control flare-ups, find distractions and calming techniques to manage itching, and try to find a positive support system in others who understand your situation. 


Remember: You are not alone. Eight million Americans have psoriasis, just like you. 


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