Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition characterized by red inflamed, raised areas that often develop as silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Psoriasis is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the US.

Causes of Psoriasis

The cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, it is thought to be caused by abnormally fast-growing and shedding skin cells. The skin cells multiply quickly, causing the skin to shed every three to four days. Though not contagious, the condition is hereditary. Psoriasis is often recurrent and occurs in varying severities.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

Each individual may experience the symptoms of psoriasis differently, as psoriasis has a wide range of forms and severity. The following are the most common symptoms of psoriasis:

  • Patches of red raised skin on the trunk, arms, legs, knees, elbows, genitals, and scalp
  • Thick nails that are pitted and separate from the nail bed
  • Small blisters containing pus (pustules) on the palm, soles, and other small areas or all over the body

Psoriasis Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow down the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. At the present time, there is no cure for psoriasis. Treatment may include:

  • Ointments and creams (to moisturize the skin).
  • Sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure (under a physician's supervision).
  • Steroids (such as cortisone creams).
  • Vitamin D cream.
  • Creams containing salicylic acid or coal tar.
  • Anthralin, a drug that treats the thicker, hard-to-treat patches of psoriasis.
  • Methotrexate, an anti-cancer drug that interrupts the growth of skin cells.
  • Oral or topical retinoids.
  • Immunosuppressive medications (such as Cyclosporine).

Our specialists will work with you to develop a treatment plan to meet your individual needs.

Psoriasis

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder, is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Psoriasis can also be associated with arthritis. It is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the U.S.

What causes psoriasis?

The cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, it is thought to be caused by abnormally fast-growing and shedding skin cells. The skin cells multiply quickly, causing the skin to shed every three to four days. This may be caused by a trigger, such as injury, sunburn, certain classes of medications, infection, stress, alcohol, or tobacco. Though not contagious, the condition is hereditary. Psoriasis is often recurrent and occurs in varying severities.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

The following are the most common symptoms of psoriasis. Psoriasis comes in several forms and severities. Symptoms may include:

  • Discoid psoriasis (also called plaque psoriasis). This type of psoriasis is the most common. Symptoms may include patches of red, raised skin on the trunk, arms, legs, knees, elbows, genitals, and scalp. Nails may also thicken, become pitted, and separate from the nail beds.

  • Guttate psoriasis. This type of psoriasis affects mostly children. Symptoms may include many small patches of red, raised skin. A sore throat usually proceeds the onset of this type of psoriasis.

  • Pustular psoriasis. Symptoms may include small pustules (pus-containing blisters) all over the body or just on the palms, soles, and other small areas.

The symptoms of psoriasis may look like other skin conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

When the condition progresses to the development of silvery scales, the doctor can usually diagnose psoriasis with a medical examination of the nails and skin. Confirmation of diagnosis may be done with a skin biopsy (taking a small skin specimen to examine under a microscope).

Treatment for psoriasis

Specific treatment for psoriasis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Severity of the condition

  • Your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow down the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. At the present time, there is no cure for psoriasis. Treatment may include:

  • Ointments and creams (to moisturize the skin)

  • Sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure (under a doctor's supervision)

  • Steroids (such as cortisone creams)

  • Vitamin D cream

  • Creams containing salicylic acid or coal tar

  • Anthralin. An anti-inflammatory drug that treats the thicker, hard-to-treat patches of psoriasis.

  • Methotrexate. An anti-cancer drug that interrupts the growth of skin cells.

  • Oral or topical retinoids

  • Immunosuppressive medications (such as Cyclosporine)

  • Immunomodulary agents (biologic such as TNF-α inhibitors) 

Outlook

There is no known way to prevent psoriasis. Although it is a lifelong condition, it often can be controlled with appropriate treatment. Keeping the skin clean and moist, and avoiding person-specific psoriasis triggers (excessive stress, for example) may help decrease flare-ups.  

Kristina Callis Duffin, M.D., M.S.

Patient Rating:

4.9

4.9 out of 5

Dr. Kristina Callis Duffin is an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the University of Utah. She is board-certified in Dermatology and Internal Medicine. Her primary clinical focus is in the comprehensive care of patients with psoriasis. Dr. Duffin’s research interests include clinical trials of psoriasis medications, and advocacy and education... Read More

Specialties:

Dermatology, General Dermatology, Psoriasis and Phototherapy

Locations:

Midvalley Health Center (801) 581-2955
University Hospital
Dermatology, Clinic 28
(801) 581-2955

C. David Hansen, M.D.

Patient Rating:

4.9

4.9 out of 5

C. David Hansen, M.D., is a dermatologist with a practice focused on the treatment of general dermatology. He has a particular emphasis in the management of acne, eczema, psoriasis, and skin cancer. After 20 years in private practice, Dr. Hansen joined the University of Utah School of Medicine faculty full-time in 1998. His research interests are i... Read More

Jason Ezra Hawkes, M.D.

Jason E. Hawkes, MD, is a physician-scientist and board-certified clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology. Prior to medical school, he studied biology at Brigham Young University and graduated with Cum Laude Honors. He received his medical degree and completed his dermatology training at the University of Utah School of Medicine. ... Read More

Gerald G. Krueger, M.D.

Patient Rating:

4.6

4.6 out of 5

Gerald Krueger, MD is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of psoriasis and hair loss. He is board certified in dermatology. Involved in over 100 clinical trials on psoriasis since being recruited to the University of Utah in 1972. In 2001 Dr. Krueger and Dr Callis Duffin started the Utah Psoriasis Initiative with the goal of creating a regist... Read More

Specialties:

Dermatology, Psoriasis and Phototherapy

Locations:

Midvalley Health Center (801) 581-2955
University Hospital
Dermatology, Clinic 28
(801) 581-2955

Jamie L. Woodcock, M.D.

Patient Rating:

4.6

4.6 out of 5

Dr. Jamie Woodcock has specialized interest in medical dermatology and infectious disease dermatology. She has completed a two-year fellowship in psoriasis and published research in this area. She enjoys caring for patients with any general dermatologic concerns.... Read More

Specialties:

Dermatology, Dermatology Infectious Diseases, General Dermatology, Psoriasis and Phototherapy

Locations:

Midvalley Health Center (801) 581-2955
University Hospital
Dermatology, Clinic 28
(801) 581-2955

University Hospital
Clinic 28

50 N. Medical Drive
Salt Lake City, Utah 84132
Map
(801) 581-2121

Midvalley Health Center

243 East 6100 South
Murray, Utah 84107
Map
(801) 581-2955