Psoriasis is a chronic disease of the skin which affects over 5 million people in the United States. Typical characteristics of psoriasis include dry, red patches of skin and inflammation. Psoriasis is not contagious and may be inherited. There are several types of psoriasis, each similar to the others in many respects. The most common type of is plaque psoriasis which affects approximately nine out of ten people with psoriasis. Skin affected by plaque psoriasis is red and covered with silvery scales. Circular or oval shaped red plaques which may itch or burn are typical of plaque psoriasis and the patches are usually found on the elbows, knees, trunk, or scalp, but may be found on any part of the skin. Plaque psoriasis patches are very persistent and may not go away.
Nail psoriasis affects the fingernails and toenails and is another type of psoriasis. Most people who suffer from psoriasis of the nails also have skin psoriasis which is also called coetaneous psoriasis. Psoriasis of the nails occurs in fewer than 5% of people who do not have skin psoriasis. Psoriasis of the nails involves any of a number of changes to the nail area. Clear yellow-red nail discoloring that looks like a drop of blood under the nail plate may occur. Little pits may form in the nails. These pits develop when cells are lost from the nail's surface. Lines may form across the nails and areas of white on the nail plate may also be present.
Inverse psoriasis involves bright red and smooth patches which are found in the folds of the skin, most commonly under the breasts, in the armpits, near genitals, and under the buttocks. The inflamed areas are aggravated by sweat and skin rubbing together in the folds of skin. Yeast overgrowth may trigger the skin lesions of psoriasis. Several topical creams and ointments are available to treat inverse psoriasis. Corticosteroids, derivatives of vitamin D3, retinoids, coal tar, or anthralin are typically used to relieve itching and redness. Another issue for psoriasis sufferers is that these moist irritated areas can be prime areas for yeast and other fungal infections.
The least common type of psoriasis is called erythrodermic psoriasis and can be quite serious. Very large areas of the body are bright red and inflamed and may appear to be covered in a red and peeling rash. The rash usually itches or burns and the increased blood flow can put a large strain on the heart. Both topical and systemic medications can be used to treat erythrodermic psoriasis and combination therapies of medications may also be used. Antibiotics may also be used to prevent or stop the infection. People with this type of psoriasis become prone to dehydration, infection, and fever requiring hospitalization. Pustular psoriasis is an uncommon form of psoriasis. People with this type of psoriasis have clearly defined, raised bumps on the skin that are filled with pustules. The skin under and around the bumps is reddish and may cause large portions of the skin to redden and change.