Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes the rapid buildup of your skin cells. This buildup of cells causes scaling on your skin’s surface. Inflammation and redness around the scales are fairly common. Typical psoriatic scales are whitish-silver and develop in thick, red patches. However, on darker skin tones, they can also appear more as purplish, dark brown with gray scales. Sometimes, these patches will crack and bleed.

How it happens

Psoriasis is the result of a sped-up skin production process. Typically, skin cells grow deep in your skin and slowly rise to the surface. Eventually, they fall off. The typical life cycle of a skin cell is 1 month.In people with psoriasis, this production process may occur in just a few days. Because of this, skin cells don’t have time to fall off. This rapid overproduction leads to the buildup of skin cells. Scales typically develop on joints, such as elbows and knees. However, they may develop anywhere on your body, including the: Hands, feet, neck, scalp, and face.

What are the different types of psoriasis? There are five types of psoriasis:

Plaque psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that about 80 to 90 percent of people with the condition have plaque psoriasis. It causes red, inflamed patches on light skin tones and purple or grayish color or darker brown patches on skin of color — making it harder to diagnose in people of color.

These patches are often covered with whitish-silver scales or plaques and are often more severe on skin of color. These plaques are commonly found on the elbows, knees, and scalp.

Guttate psoriasis
Guttate psoriasis commonly occurs in childhood. This type of psoriasis causes small pink or violet spots. The most common sites for guttate psoriasis include your torso, arms, and legs. These spots are rarely thick or raised like plaque psoriasis.

Pustular psoriasis is more common in adults. It causes white, pus-filled blisters and broad areas of red or violet —depending on skin tone — inflamed skin. It can appear as a more intense violet color on darker skin tones. Pustular psoriasis is typically localized to smaller areas of your body, such as the hands or feet, but it can be widespread.
Inverse psoriasis
Inverse psoriasis causes bright areas of red, shiny, inflamed skin. Patches of inverse psoriasis develop under your armpits or breasts, in your groin, or around skinfolds in your genitals.

Erythrodermic psoriasis
Erythrodermic psoriasis is a severe and very rare type of psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

This form often covers large sections of your body at once. The skin almost appears sunburned. Scales that develop often slough off in large sections or sheets. It’s not uncommon for you to run a fever or become very ill with this form of psoriasis.

This type can be life threatening, so it’s important that you make an appointment with a healthcare professional immediately.

Treatment options for psoriasis

Psoriasis has no cure. Treatments aim to

  • reduce inflammation and scales
  • slow the growth of skin cells
  • remove plaques

Psoriasis treatments fall into two categories:
Topical treatments
Creams and ointments applied directly to the skin can be helpful for reducing mild to moderate psoriasis. Topical psoriasis treatments include:

  • topical corticosteroids
  • topical retinoids
  • anthralin
  • vitamin D analogues
  • salicylic acid
  • moisturizer

Systemic medications
People with moderate to severe psoriasis, and those who have not responded well to other treatment types, may need to use oral or injected medications.

Many of these medications can have severe side effects, and for that reason, doctors usually prescribe them for short periods of time.

These medications include:

  • methotrexate
  • cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
  • biologics
  • oral retinoids