Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that affects the skin and nails. You may have patches of thick, red skin (plaques) covered with silvery scales. These often appear on the elbows, knees, legs, lower back, and scalp.

The plaques itch and can be painful. People with this condition are more likely to have emotional stress and depression.

Psoriasis is not contagious. It can’t spread to someone else who touches it. But it can be inherited. It's an autoimmune skin disease. This means that the immune system has an abnormal reaction. It treats healthy skin like it is a foreign substance. This causes skin cells to grow faster than normal and to stack up in raised red patches. Psoriasis is a long-term (chronic) disease. You will have flare-ups that come and go over time.

Smoking, sun exposure, and alcohol use may affect how often the psoriasis occurs and how long the flare-ups last.

There is no cure, but treatments can offer relief. Treatment can include topical creams, light therapy (phototherapy), and oral or injectable medicines.

Home care

  • No specific diet is needed. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Psoriasis can increase your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

  • Increasing omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can help improve dry skin. The best dietary sources are fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, lake trout, albacore tuna) or fish oil (such as cod liver oil). A great way to take fish oil is to add it to a juice, shake, or smoothie. Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, soybean, and tofu are converted to omega-3 fatty acid in the body.

  • Stay at a healthy weight. Overlapping skin folds can be a site for psoriasis plaques. If you are overweight, talk to your healthcare provider about a weight-loss program.

  • Bathing daily can help remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Use lukewarm water and mild soaps that have added oils, fats, and moisturizers. Stay away from deodorants, antiperspirants, and antibacterial soaps. These have a drying effect. Many people find it helpful to soak in a tub with added bath oils, oatmeal, apple cider vinegar, or Epsom salts.

  • After bathing, put on skin cream (or a skin oil for a stronger effect).

  • Some exposure to UV rays from the sun can improve psoriasis. But too much sun can trigger an outbreak. It also raises your risk for skin cancer. Limit sun exposure and use sunscreen on healthy skin (at least 30 SPF).

  • If you are prescribed medicine, take it as directed.

  • Unless another steroid cream was prescribed, you may use over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream for a few weeks during symptom flare-ups.

  • Stop smoking. If you are a long-time smoker, this can be hard. Think about joining a stop-smoking program. Ask your provider for help.

  • Tell your provider if your joints start to ache or get stiff.

  • Tell your provider if you notice changes in your fingernails.

  • Depression is more common among people with psoriasis. Get help if you notice changes in your mood.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical care

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Skin pain gets worse

  • Bleeding from the skin plaques that's hard to control

  • Signs of skin infection (redness, increasing pain, swelling, pus)

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38°C), or higher, or as advised by your provider

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