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What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease that speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells.

What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

Psoriasis causes patches of thick red skin and silvery scales. Patches are typically found on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of feet, but can affect other places (fingernails, toenails, and mouth). The most common type of psoriasis is called plaque psoriasis.
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis that eventually occurs in 10% to 20% of people with psoriasis. It is different from more common types of arthritis (such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) and is thought to be related to the underlying problem of psoriasis.
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are sometimes considered together as psoriatic disease.

Who is at risk for psoriasis?

Anyone can get psoriasis. It occurs mostly in adults, but children can also get it. Men and women seem to have equal risk.

Can I get psoriasis from someone who has it?

Psoriasis is not contagious. This means you cannot get psoriasis from contact (e.g., touching skin patches) with someone who has it. 

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that part of the body’s own immune system becomes overactive and attacks normal tissues in the body.

How is psoriasis diagnosed and treated?

Psoriasis often has a typical appearance that a primary care doctor can recognize, but it can be confused with other skin diseases (like eczema), so a dermatologist (skin doctor) is often the best doctor to diagnose it. The treatment of psoriasis usually depends on how much skin is affected, how bad the disease is (e.g., having many or painful skin patches), or the location (especially the face). Treatments range from creams and ointments applied to the affected areas to ultraviolet light therapy to drugs (such as methotrexate). Many people who have psoriasis also have serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Psoriatic arthritis has many of the same symptoms as other types of arthritis, so a rheumatologist (arthritis doctor) is often the best doctor to diagnose it. The treatment of psoriatic arthritis usually involves the use of drugs (such as methotrexate).

Psoriatic disease (when a person has psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis) may be treated with drugs (such as methotrexate) or a combination of drugs and creams or ointments.

What is CDC doing about psoriasis?

Efforts to address psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis have typically focused on studying and treating individual patients and on clinical and biomedical research. In 2010, CDC worked with experts in psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and public health to develop a public health perspective that considers how these conditions affect the entire population. The resulting report is Developing and Addressing the Public Health Agenda for Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis (Agenda)[PDF - 380.44KB]. You can read a short article about the agenda in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has also included questions about psoriasis to learn more about psoriasis in the United States, which can help in public health research, especially in providing national estimates of how many people have psoriasis (prevalence).

What are other sources for information of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis?