Psoriasis is a chronic, autoimmune disease that appears on the skin. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth cycle of skin cells. There are 5 types of psoriasis, none of which are contagious:
Plaque psoriasis is the most common of the 5 types and appears as raised red patches or lesions covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells, called scale. Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body and can be associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
Guttate [GUH-tate] psoriasis often starts in childhood or young adulthood, usually after an illness. This form of psoriasis resembles small, red, individual spots on the skin. Guttate lesions appear on the trunk and limbs, but these spots are not usually as thick as plaque psoriasis.
Inverse psoriasis is found in the armpits, groin area, under the breasts, and in other skin folds around the genitals and the buttocks. This type of psoriasis first appears on the skin as lesions that are very red and usually lack the scale associated with plaque psoriasis. It may also appear smooth and shiny. Inverse psoriasis is particularly subject to irritation from rubbing and sweating because of its location in skin folds and tender areas. It is more common and troublesome in those who are overweight and individuals with deep skin folds.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis that often affects most of the body’s surface and may occur in association with pustular psoriasis. It is characterized by periodic, widespread, fiery redness of the skin, swelling, and redness accompanied by severe itching and pain.
Pustular psoriasis is characterized by white pustules surrounded by red skin. The pus consists of white blood cells. It is neither an infection nor contagious. It may be localized to certain areas of the body—for example, the hands and feet. Pustular psoriasis may be generalized, covering most of the body. It tends to go in a cycle—reddening of the skin followed by formation of pustules and scaling.
Topical medications are usually the first line of defense for psoriasis treatment. Researchers believe psoriasis occurs when faulty signals in the immune system cause skin cells to grow too rapidly. Topicals slow down or normalize that excessive cell reproduction and reduce inflammation (redness) associated with the skin condition.
Corticosteroids, also called “steroids,” are the most frequently used psoriasis treatment. Topical steroid medications are easy to use, work quickly, and can be very effective in controlling mild to moderate psoriasis lesions.
Systemics are prescription medications that affect the entire body and are usually reserved for patients with moderate to severe psoriasis.
Biologic drugs, or “biologics,” are a relatively new class of psoriasis treatment and psoriatic arthritis treatment and are given by injection or oral medication. Biologics target specific parts of the immune system by blocking the action of specific immune cells or by blocking proteins in the immune system that are responsible for the development of the skin condition.