This common autoimmune condition is often confused with other skin conditions.

Many people have psoriasis. In fact, it is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. But despite how common it is, you may not even know if you have the condition. That’s because symptoms of psoriasis can resemble more than 50 other conditions.

Here is some useful information to help you determine if you have this common skin condition.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

Psoriasis causes skin cells in certain areas of your body to grow too fast. Symptoms may vary from person to person, and may also be different depending on the type of psoriasis you have. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Areas of red, inflamed skin covered with thick, scaly silvery-colored patches, called plaques
  • Scaly plaques on the scalp
  • Itchy, painful skin that may crack or bleed
  • Discoloration and pitting of nails on fingers and toes

What are the different types of psoriasis?

Knowing what type of psoriasis you have can help determine the best treatment. Most people usually have only one type at a time. The most common type, affecting 8 out of 10 people with psoriasis, is called plaque psoriasis. It causes patches of thick, scaly silvery-colored areas on the skin. Guttate psoriasis causes a rash with small reddish bumps. Inverse psoriasis causes dry, red and scaly patches that form in the folds of the skin. Pustular psoriasis may form pus-filled blisters on the skin. Erythrodermic psoriasis may cause widespread peeling, burning and inflammation of the skin, as well as fever. Psoriatic arthritis combines symptoms of psoriasis, along with those of arthritis, such as stiff and painful joints.

How does psoriasis differ from other skin conditions?

The skin condition most often confused with psoriasis is eczema. These two conditions have similar symptoms but they are not the same. For one, psoriasis is an immune disorder and eczema is not. Here are some of the similarities and differences between the two:

  • How they feel. Although both conditions may cause intensely itchy skin, psoriasis is also usually accompanied by burning or stinging pain.
  • How they look. Both conditions may make your skin look red and inflamed. Eczema typically causes rough, leathery looking patches that are sometimes dark. Psoriasis patches are typically silvery and scaly looking and are raised. The skin is thicker and more inflamed than with eczema.

Where does psoriasis commonly occur?

Although you can find plaques just about anywhere on the body, the most common places are on the elbows, knees and scalp. The legs, trunk and nails may also be affected.

Is psoriasis contagious?

No. The condition is not transmittable from person to person. Rather, it is an autoimmune disease.

Are there specific triggers that cause psoriasis to flare up?

Although each person’s experience with the condition may be different, common triggers of psoriasis flare-ups are stress, infections and some medications. Cold dry weather may also be a trigger. In some people, any type of skin injury, such as cuts, burns or bruises, can trigger an outbreak. It has also been shown that drinking alcohol and smoking (or being around smoke) may exacerbate symptoms.


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Date Last Reviewed: June 17, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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