Menu   WellSpan Health

Health Library

Health Library


What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder, is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Psoriasis can also be associated with arthritis. It is estimated to affect 7.5 million people in the U.S.

What causes psoriasis?

The cause of psoriasis is unknown; however, it is thought to be caused by abnormally fast-growing and shedding skin cells. The skin cells multiply quickly, causing the skin to shed every three to four days. This may be caused by a trigger, such as injury, sunburn, certain classes of medications, infection, stress, alcohol, or tobacco. Though not contagious, the condition is hereditary. Psoriasis is often recurrent and occurs in varying severities.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

The following are the most common symptoms of psoriasis. Psoriasis comes in several forms and severities. Symptoms may include:

  • Discoid psoriasis (also called plaque psoriasis). This type of psoriasis is the most common. Symptoms may include patches of red, raised skin on the trunk, arms, legs, knees, elbows, genitals, and scalp. Nails may also thicken, become pitted, and separate from the nail beds.

  • Guttate psoriasis. This type of psoriasis affects mostly children. Symptoms may include many small patches of red, raised skin. A sore throat usually proceeds the onset of this type of psoriasis.

  • Pustular psoriasis. Symptoms may include small pustules (pus-containing blisters) all over the body or just on the palms, soles, and other small areas.

The symptoms of psoriasis may look like other skin conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

When the condition progresses to the development of silvery scales, the doctor can usually diagnose psoriasis with a medical examination of the nails and skin. Confirmation of diagnosis may be done with a skin biopsy (taking a small skin specimen to examine under a microscope).

Treatment for psoriasis

Specific treatment for psoriasis will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Severity of the condition

  • Your tolerance of specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the condition

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and slow down the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. At the present time, there is no cure for psoriasis. Treatment may include:

  • Ointments and creams (to moisturize the skin)

  • Sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure (under a doctor's supervision)

  • Steroids (such as cortisone creams)

  • Vitamin D cream

  • Creams containing salicylic acid or coal tar

  • Anthralin. An anti-inflammatory drug that treats the thicker, hard-to-treat patches of psoriasis.

  • Methotrexate. An anti-cancer drug that interrupts the growth of skin cells.

  • Oral or topical retinoids

  • Immunosuppressive medications (such as Cyclosporine)

  • Immunomodulary agents (biologic such as TNF-a inhibitors) 


There is no known way to prevent psoriasis. Although it is a lifelong condition, it often can be controlled with appropriate treatment. Keeping the skin clean and moist, and avoiding person-specific psoriasis triggers (excessive stress, for example) may help decrease flare-ups.  

Psoriasis - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Jones, Niya, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ziegler, Olivia Walton, MS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2013-02-01T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2013-02-09T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-01-12T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.


Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.