Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease

Psoriasis Overview

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes scaly red or purple patches on the skin. These raised areas of the skin can resemble a rash, and may be painful, dry, or itchy. Common areas of the body affected by psoriasis include the scalp, forearms, palms, and shins. Psoriasis is not contagious and can be controlled through treatment.

What Causes Psoriasis?

While the specific causes of psoriasis are unknown, doctors believe several factors play a role in the development of the autoimmune condition: genetics and molecules in the immune system. Specifically, the IL-17A molecule—a key cytokine that links T cell activation to neutrophil mobilization and activation1. Essentially, the body’s T cells attack healthy skin cells causing an increase in cell production that pushes new skin cells to the surface where they develop into psoriasis plaques.


man sitting at a desk wringing his hands in pain.Common symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Thick red or purple patches on the skin that may be covered in white or silvery scales
  • Dry, cracked skin that may burn, itch, or bleed
  • Pitted finger and/or toe nails
  • Swollen, painful joints


Two shoppers comparing lotion in a pharmacyThe goal of treatment for psoriasis is to reduce inflammation and slow the production of skin cells and psoriasis plaques. There are three common types of treatment for psoriasis:

  • Topical creams and ointments, which includes corticosteroids
  • Oral and injected medications, such as retinoids and biologics
  • UV light therapy

Many people with moderate to severe psoriasis find that a combination of treatments provides meaningful relief.

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  1. Camille Zenobia and George Hajishengallis, Basic biology and role of interleukin-17 in immunity and inflammation, Periodontol 2000. 2015 Oct; 69(1): 142–159.,