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Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by red patches, silver scales, dry and cracked skin, itching, burning, soreness, thickened or ridged nails, joint stiffness, and pain. Living with psoriasis can be challenging, but understanding the disease and its treatment options can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Understanding Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes the skin cells to multiply at an accelerated rate. This rapid cell turnover leads to the formation of red patches covered with silver scales. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Psoriasis can occur on any part of the body, but it is most commonly found on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back. The severity of the condition can vary from person to person, with some experiencing mild symptoms and others facing more severe manifestations.

Managing Symptoms

While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are several treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and reduce flare-ups. It is important to work closely with a dermatologist to develop an individualized treatment plan that suits your specific needs.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments are often the first line of defense against psoriasis. These medications are applied directly to the affected areas of the skin and can help reduce inflammation, itching, and scaling. Common topical treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory medications help reduce redness and itching.
  • Topical retinoids: Derived from vitamin A, these medications help slow down the growth of skin cells.
  • Calcineurin inhibitors: These medications suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Salicylic acid: This ingredient helps remove scales and promote smoother skin.


Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light under medical supervision. This treatment can help slow down the rapid cell turnover and reduce inflammation. There are different types of phototherapy, including:

  • Narrowband UVB therapy: This treatment uses a specific wavelength of ultraviolet light to target affected areas.
  • PUVA therapy: This treatment combines a medication called psoralen with UVA light exposure.
  • Excimer laser: This targeted laser therapy is used for smaller areas of psoriasis.

Systemic Medications

For individuals with moderate to severe psoriasis, systemic medications may be prescribed. These medications work throughout the body to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. Some common systemic medications include:

  • Methotrexate: This medication slows down the growth of skin cells and reduces inflammation.
  • Cyclosporine: This immunosuppressant medication helps control the immune response.
  • Biologics: These newer medications target specific parts of the immune system involved in psoriasis.

Lifestyle Tips for Managing Psoriasis

In addition to medical treatments, certain lifestyle changes can help individuals manage their psoriasis symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Here are some tips:

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can support overall health and potentially reduce inflammation. Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may have a positive effect on psoriasis symptoms.

Moisturize Regularly

Keeping the skin moisturized can help reduce dryness and itching. Use fragrance-free moisturizers and apply them immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.

Avoid Triggers

Identify and avoid triggers that worsen your psoriasis symptoms. Common triggers include stress, certain medications, infections, and cold weather. By minimizing exposure to triggers, you can reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.

Manage Stress

Stress can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, so finding healthy ways to manage stress is crucial. Engage in activities that help you relax, such as yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature.

Protect Your Skin

Protect your skin from injuries and irritants. Wear protective clothing, gloves, and sunscreen when necessary. Avoid harsh soaps and opt for gentle cleansers instead.


Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. While there is no cure, various treatment options can help manage symptoms and reduce flare-ups. It is essential to work closely with a dermatologist to develop an individualized treatment plan. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle and avoiding triggers can further support symptom management. By understanding the disease and implementing appropriate strategies, individuals with psoriasis can lead fulfilling lives and minimize the impact of this condition on their overall well-being.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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