Psoriasis is a chronic skin disorder that causes red, scaly patches on the limbs, trunk, scalp, and other parts of the body. It is not contagious. The rash of psoriasis goes through cycles of improving and worsening. A period of worsening is called a "flare". Psoriasis can occur in members of the same family, as there are specific genetic factors that make some individuals more susceptible to psoriasis.
Psoriasis appears as red, thickened areas with silvery scales, most often on the scalp, elbows, knees, legs, arms, genitals, nails, palms and lower back. It can be itchy or uncomfortable. The skin cells multiply more quickly and accumulate on the surface in silvery scales. Psoriasis comes in many forms. Each differs in severity, duration, location, shape, and pattern of the scales. The most common form, called plaque psoriasis, begins with little red bumps. They can become larger, raised, red patches that flake. Some people with skin psoriasis also have joint pain.
Identify and control triggers (such as stress, certain medications, alcohol and smoking) and take care of your skin with plenty of moisturizer. Avoid picking and scratching at the skin. Flare-ups sometimes occur in the winter, as a result of dry skin and lack of sunlight. Moisturizing creams and lotions loosen scales and help control itching.
Although there is currently no cure for psoriasis, there are multiple treatments available that can usually lead to a clearing of symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medications to apply on the skin containing cortisone compounds, synthetic vitamin D analogues, retinoids (vitamin A derivative), tar, or anthralin. Other types of treatment include coal tar, Goeckerman treatment, light therapy, ultraviolet light B (UVB), PUVA, Excimer laser, methotrexate, cyclosporine, and biologic agents.