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Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales.

Alternative Names:

Plaque psoriasis

Exams and Tests:

Very often your health care provider can diagnose this condition by looking at your skin.

Sometimes, a skin biopsy is done to rule out other possible conditions. If you have joint pain, your doctor may order x-rays.


The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms and prevent infection.

Three treatment options are available:

  • Skin lotions, ointments, creams, and shampoos. These are called topical treatments.
  • Pills or injections that affect the body's immune response, not just the skin. These are called systemic, or body-wide, treatments.
  • Phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet light to treat psoriasis.


Most of the time, psoriasis is treated with medicines that are placed directly on the skin or scalp. These may include:

  • Cortisone creams and ointments
  • Creams or ointments that contain coal tar or anthralin (an anti-inflammatory drug)
  • Creams to remove the scaling (usually salicylic acid or lactic acid)
  • Dandruff shampoos (over-the-counter or prescription)
  • Moisturizers
  • Prescription medicines containing vitamin D or vitamin A (retinoids)


If you have very severe psoriasis, your doctor will likely recommend medicines that suppress the immune system's faulty response. These medicines include methotrexate or cyclosporine. Retinoids can also be used, but these work differently from medicines that suppress the immune system.

Newer drugs called biologics are used when other treatments do not work. Biologics approved for the treatment of psoriasis include:

  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Infliximab (Remicade)
  • Stelara


Some people may choose to have phototherapy. This treatment:

  • Carefully exposes your skin to ultraviolet light
  • May be given alone or after you take a drug that makes the skin sensitive to light
  • Can be given as ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) light


If you have an infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.


Following these tips at home may help:

  • Taking a daily bath or shower. Try not to scrub too hard because this can irritate the skin and trigger a flare-up.
  • Soaking in an oatmeal bath. This may be soothing and may help loosen scales. You can use over-the-counter oatmeal bath products. Or, you can mix 1 cup of plain oatmeal into a tub of warm water.
  • Keeping your skin clean and moist, and avoiding your specific psoriasis triggers. This may help reduce the number of flare-ups.
  • Exposing your skin to sunlight. This may help your symptoms go away, but be careful not to get sunburned.
  • Using relaxation and anti-stress techniques. The link between stress and flare-ups of psoriasis is not well understood, however.
  • Limiting alcoholic beverages. This may help keep psoriasis from getting worse.
Support Groups:

Some people may benefit from a psoriasis support group.

Outlook (Prognosis):

Psoriasis can be a life-long condition that can be controlled with treatment. It may go away for a long time and then return. Sometimes it goes away and never returns. With proper treatment it will not affect your overall health.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of psoriasis or if your skin irritation continues despite treatment.

Tell your doctor if you have joint pain or fever with your psoriasis attacks. If you have psoriatic arthritis with symptoms of arthritis (such as painful, stiff, or swollen joints), talk to the provider who is treating your psoriasis.

Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have a severe outbreak that covers all or most of your body.


There is no known way to prevent psoriasis. Keeping your skin clean and moist and avoiding your specific psoriasis triggers may help reduce the number of flare-ups.

Health care providers recommend daily baths or showers for people with psoriasis. Avoid scrubbing too hard, because this can irritate the skin and trigger an attack.


Menter A, Gottlieb A, Feldman SR, Voorhees ASV, Leonardi CL, Gordon KB, et al. Guidelines for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Section 1. Overview of psoriasis and guidelines of care for the treatment of psoriasis with biologics. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;5:826-850.

Menter A, Korman NJ, Elmets CA, Feldman SR, Gelfand JM, Gordon KB, et al. American Academy of Dermatology guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Section 3. Guidelines of care for the management and treatment of psoriasis with topical therapies. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009;60:643-659.

Menter A, Korman NJ, Elments CA, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.Section 5. Guidelines of care for the treatment of psoriasis with phototherapy and photochemotherapy. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;1:114-135. Available at:

Psoriasis. Alvero R, Ferri FF, Fort GG, et al, eds. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:section I.

Stern RS. Psoralen and ultraviolet a light therapy for psoriasis. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(7):682-690. Available at:

Weigle N, McBane S. Psoriasis. Am Fam Physician. 2013:87(9);626-633.

Review Date: 11/12/2014
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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