Psoriasis causes red, crusty patches to appear on the skin, which can look as if they're covered in silvery scales. It can appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp, hands, elbows, feet and genitals. It can also affect the joints. It affects around 3% of people and can appear at any age, but is most common between the ages of 11 and 45. It can look unsightly and feel uncomfortable but it is not infectious.
Psoriasis is a condition that affects the immune system. When someone has psoriasis the rate at which their skin is replaced speeds up. Normally it takes 21-28 days to replace skin cells, but with psoriasis this can happen in just a few days. As a result, the skin cells can build up on the surface of the skin and appear as raised red, flaky patches. It's a long-term (chronic) condition and symptoms can come and go at different times and may range from mild to severe. It's also known to run in families, so may be inherited. It can't be cured, but it can be treated.
The treatment for psoriasis will depend upon its type and severity and our dermatologists will discuss your symptoms with you in order to suggest the right treatment plan for you.
The usual treatment is to apply a cream containing both a steroid and vitamin D to the affected areas. Creams that contain retinoids (vitamin A) can also be useful. Other lotions containing coal tar or salicylic acid may help (known as keratolytics), particularly if the scalp is affected.
Sunshine is beneficial for psoriasis and it's advisable to expose your skin to natural sunlight. You should do this in moderation and according to your tanning ability and our dermatologists can advise you on this. It's also important to keep your skin moisturised by using perfume-free shower gels and moisturisers.
For severe psoriasis, you may need to take medicines that reduce your skin cell production, known as an immunosuppressant.
Often, treatment will include a combination of these approaches.
People with psoriasis are more prone to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and heart disease, so it's also a good idea to talk to one of our GPs about this in order to assess your risk and make sure you receive the right treatments.