What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis occurs when the immune system overreacts causing an inflammatory response that causes normal skin cells to grow more rapidly.

The symptoms of plaque psoriasis

Psoriasis symptoms will vary from person to person and by type of psoriasis. Some of the common plaque psoriasis symptoms include:

  • Raised, red, inflamed lesions

  • Silvery scaly plaques

  • Small, red, individual spots (more common in children and young adults)

  • Dry skin that may crack and bleed

  • Itching, burning, or soreness of the skin

  • Pitted nails or separation from the nail bed

Cycles, flare-ups and triggers

Most types of psoriasis go through cycles. You may experience long periods (weeks or even months) of no symptoms, appearing to go into complete remission. But because psoriasis is a chronic disease, symptoms can return, or “flare up”. Symptom flare-ups can be distressing, having a significant impact on your daily life. They can be caused by external factors from the environment, known as triggers. Triggers affect everyone differently. Common symptom triggers may include: 

  • Stress

  • Cold weather

  • Cuts, scrapes, bug bites, severe sunburn

  • Certain medications such as lithium, anti-malarials and certain medicines to treat high blood pressure

  • Smoking

  • Heavy alcohol consumption

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly affects healthy skin cells, acting against them as though it is fighting an infection or healing a wound. This causes skin cells to multiply at an abnormally fast rate, forming psoriasis plaques. The cause of psoriasis is still not fully understood.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

There is no single test for psoriasis, so your doctor will make a diagnosis after talking to you about your symptoms and carefully examining your skin. To rule out other potential causes, they may require a small skin sample (biopsy). You may be referred to a dermatologist for a confirmed diagnosis and treatment.