How to… Understand Psoriasis

By Pippa Thompson

Many people are aware that psoriasis is a skin condition, and many also know what it looks like – red, scaly ‘plaques’ on the skin. However, not everyone knows that psoriasis is a chronic (long term) condition which is caused by a faulty process in the immune system. In people with psoriasis, the immune system ‘overacts’, almost as if it is constantly trying to cover a wound or fight an infection. This over activity produces lots of inflammation, which in turn causes skin cells to turn over much more quickly than normal. We then see this on the skin, in the form of red, dry ‘plaques’ which often have a build-up of scale (dead skin).


Here are some other key pieces of information to know about psoriasis:

  • Psoriasis affects each person that has it differently. Some people may have it only very mildly, perhaps with just a few small plaques. Others may have more severe psoriasis, meaning it may be more widespread across the body, with thicker scaling or redder plaques.
  • Similarly, what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. There is no ‘cure’ for psoriasis, and effective treatments for managing the skin tend to be found on a trial-and-error basis.
  • Although there is no cure for psoriasis, there is a wide range of treatments available to help control the symptoms. Treatments that are applied to the skin (known as ‘topical’ treatments) are available from a GP, whilst other treatments including Ultraviolet Light therapy, ‘systemic’ tablets and ‘biologic’ injections are available from a Dermatologist in a hospital setting. Many of these treatments cannot be prescribed until others have been tried, so it is important to be persistent and keep going back to the doctor for a review of your psoriasis and treatments.
  • Many people can find it difficult to cope with their psoriasis, and find that it has a significant impact on their life. It is important to discuss this with your doctor. Help, information and support is also available from the Psoriasis Association: – for information on psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and for online community forums. / 01604 251620 – our confidential helpline.

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