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Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA)

Background

Psoriasis [sore-EYE-ah-sis] is a lifelong skin disease that can cause itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. These patches are called plaques [plaks]. Plaques can appear anywhere on your body, but are most common on elbows, knees, legs, scalp, lower back, face, palms of hands and soles of feet. People with psoriasis can develop pain, swelling, and stiffness in their joints. This is called psoriatic [sore-EE-at-ic] arthritis, or PsA.

Causes

The exact causes of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are not totally understood. Some factors, like your genes and immune system, play a role. Psoriasis can also develop without a reason.

With psoriasis, the immune system doesn’t work properly. As a result, the life cycle of skin cells changes, causing new skin to grow too quickly, build up, and form a plaque. The immune system may also attack healthy cells, joints and tissues, causing the swollen, painful joints commonly seen with psoriatic arthritis.

You may have times when your skin worsens or your joints seem more stiff and painful. This is called a flare-up. Flare-ups can be caused by stress, cold/dry weather, skin damage like a cut/bruise, smoking, and being sick.

Treatment

There is no cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but treatment can help reduce the appearance of plaques and decrease your symptoms.

Your doctor will choose the best treatments for you, which may include:

  • Topical medications applied to your skin to soothe and decrease symptoms
  • Light therapy, which can reduce inflammation and slow plaque formation
  • Immunosuppressant medications, which can be taken by mouth or injected to help slow down your immune system

Resources