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Is plaque psoriasis serious?

Psoriasis is a skin disease that affects the normal growth of skin cells, and varies in severity from person to person. It causes cells to form rapidly on the skin's surface, creating thick scaly patches. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form. Lesions (plaques) can form anywhere on the body and can be itchy or painful. Plaques consist of dry, raised skin that is usually red with silvery scales. Some may have only a small number of plaques. In more severe cases, skin surrounding the joints can crack and bleed. Disfigurement and disability can result from the most severe cases.

There is no way to prevent or cure for plaque psoriasis. It is a chronic condition, but symptoms generally respond to treatment. The purpose of treatment is to bring symptoms under as much control as possible, and there are a wide variety of treatment options that help. It is a disease that has periods in which it flares up and then goes into remission. Periods of remission can last for some time, but the disorder almost always returns.

Dr. Mark W. Moronell, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Psoriasis is a chronic immune system disease of the skin that occurs when skin cells grow too quickly, and there is no cure for psoriasis. Faulty signals in the immune system cause new skin cells to form in days rather than weeks. The body does not shed these excess skin cells, so the cells pile up on the surface of the skin and lesions form. Plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris) is the most prevalent form of the disease. About 80 percent of those who have psoriasis have this type. It is characterized by raised, inflamed, red lesions covered by silvery-white scales. It is typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.

People with psoriasis face higher risks of developing other chronic and serious health conditions, called "comorbid diseases" or "comorbidities." These conditions include heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes.

People with more severe cases of psoriasis have an increased incidence of psoriatic arthritis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, depression, obesity and other immune-related conditions such as Crohn's disease.

Treating moderate to severe psoriasis usually involves a combination of treatment strategies. Besides topical treatments, your doctor may prescribe phototherapy (also known as light therapy) and/or systemic medications, including biologic drugs.

Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. About 80 percent of people with psoriasis have it. This type of psoriasis usually occurs on the places you hear old relatives complain about the most: knees, elbows, lower back, and head (scalp). You can identify it by the characteristic raised, red patches of skin with white or silver patches of dead skin on top that flake off. It may feel as itchy as the old, wool costume you had to wear for your school play.

Plaque psoriasis is color and gender blind. It can affect anyone regardless of age or race. That being said, it occurs more often in Caucasians than African-Americans (2.5 percent vs. 1.3 percent). It also typically develops in people between 15 and 35 years of age, but people of all ages can have it, including rare cases of small children or infants.

Because the severity of plaque psoriasis can vary as much as what’s in fashion year to year, its treatment is tailored (pun intended!) for the individual. Milder conditions may be treated with topical steroid cream, ointment, or shampoo, and moisturizing lotions. The topical treatments decrease inflammation, redness and itchiness.

Phototherapy (light therapy) is another treatment option that slows the growth of affected cells. This can be done either in your doctor’s office or at home with special tools and specific directions. More severe cases might require injected or oral immunosuppressive drugs, called biologics. These drugs are like linesmen on a football team. They block the action of specific immune cells in your body that exacerbate psoriasis symptoms.

Dr. Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Practitioner

The most common type of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 7.5 million people in the US have psoriasis. It's estimated that about 80 percent of people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis.

With plaque psoriasis, you will have itchy, irritated and raised, red skin lesions covered with a silvery white scale. While psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body, plaque psoriasis is usually found on the lower back, elbows, scalp and knees.

Treating psoriasis
Psoriasis is treated differently, depending on the severity of the condition and the impact it has on the person's life. Usually, mild psoriasis, which includes patches of the condition on the scalp, hands and feet, knees and elbows, is treated with over-the-counter creams and prescription ointments, creams, and shampoos to self-manage the plaques.

Moderate to severe psoriasis is treated with a combination of therapies. Along with the topical creams, ointments and lotions, you may use light therapy (called phototherapy). Phototherapy may be done at your doctor's office or at home. In addition, immune modifying drugs called biologics are prescribed for moderate to severe psoriasis. The biologics are given by injection or as an oral medication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.