Psoriasis - Definitive Guide

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What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes patches of scaly skin on the body.  The patches may be sore or itchy. 

It is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes flare-ups (where symptoms are more severe) throughout a person’s life. 

Sometimes psoriasis can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints. This is known as psoriatic arthritis and most commonly affects the hands, feet, lower back, neck, and knees.

Psoriasis affects around 2% of people in the UK and is most common in people aged between 20 and 30 and 50 and 60 years of age. It affects men and women equally. 

Psoriasis is not contagious, meaning it cannot be spread from one person to another.

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis occurs when your body produces skin cells faster than normal.  Normally skin cells are produced every 3 to 4 weeks, but in people with psoriasis, they are produced every 3 to 7 days causing a build-up of skin cells that form scaly patches on the body. 

Psoriasis often runs in families and is thought to be an autoimmune disorder —a disorder where your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. 

Psoriasis and its flare-ups may be triggered by factors such as stress, anxiety, hormonal changes, injuries, infections, or certain medication.

What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis appears as dry, scaly patches of skin on the body. The patches can occur anywhere, but most commonly affect the outside of elbows and knees, the lower back, and often the scalp. 

On light skin, patches may appear red or pink and the scales white or silvery. On brown or black skin, the patches may be pink, red, purple, or dark brown and the scales may be white, silver, or grey.

How to get rid of psoriasis

There is currently no cure for psoriasis, but treatments are available to reduce symptoms and improve the appearance of your skin. 

These include topical treatments that are applied to the skin, phototherapy treatment, oral medications, and injections

Your doctor will decide which treatment is best for you based on how severe your symptoms are, and how much your psoriasis is affecting your quality of life. 

Topical treatments

Topical treatments come in the form of creams, gels, or ointments and are applied directly to the skin. Common topical treatments for psoriasis include: 

  • moisturisers and emollients  —can be bought over the counter or may be prescribed by your GP. They work by decreasing dryness, itching, cracking, and soreness. They can also help by making other topical treatments more effective. 
  • vitamin D analogues —work by controlling the accelerated growth of skin cells and promoting normal cell growth
  • topical steroids —reduce skin irritation and inflammation
  • coal tar preparations —this thick oil is very effective in reducing inflammation, dryness and scaling
  • dithranol — slows the production of skin cells, reducing the plaques and inflammation
  • calcineurin inhibitors —work in a similar way to topical steroids by reducing inflammation, but may have fewer side effects, which means they can be used longer term


Phototherapy or ultraviolet (UV) light therapy involves exposing the skin to certain types of UV light. This type of treatment is usually prescribed by a specialist skin doctor called a dermatologist. Ultraviolet light therapy works by penetrating affected areas of the skin and slowing down the growth of cells. This is different to the potentially damaging rays produced by regular sun beds, so speak to your doctor about UV light therapy.

Oral medications

Oral medications are medicines in the form of capsules, tablets, or liquids that you take by mouth. They are systemic, meaning they affect the whole body and not just the areas affected by psoriasis. They are usually prescribed by a dermatologist for moderate to severe psoriasis, or psoriatic arthritis when other medications haven’t worked. Most oral medications work by suppressing the immune system, reducing inflammation, and slowing the production of new skin cells.


Injections for psoriasis may be injectable forms of oral medications or biological treatments that mimic chemicals found naturally in the body. They are usually prescribed when other treatments including oral medications haven’t worked. They work by suppressing the immune response and reducing inflammation.

Emotional support

Living with psoriasis can make you feel self-conscious about your appearance and may affect your mood and self-esteem. If your psoriasis is impacting your psychological health or quality of life, speak to a GP, or contact a support group like the Psoriasis Association.

Get help from an online doctor

An online doctor can help with psoriasis by asking about your symptoms and reviewing the appearance of your skin. They can advise you on how best to manage your symptoms, recommend or prescribe suitable medications and refer you to a private specialist if needed. 

Making an online video appointment is quick and easy at Medicspot. Simply click the link, choose a time and day that suits you, and have your consultation via video link from your phone wherever you are.

Get help from a pharmacist

A pharmacist can help with psoriasis by recommending over-the-counter treatments such as moisturisers and emollients and advise you on how to use them correctly. Your pharmacist can also advise you on when you should see a doctor. 

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Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that may flare up throughout your life. While it isn’t curable, a range of treatments are available to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. If you would like to talk to a doctor about psoriasis treatment make an appointment today.


NHS: Psoriasis overview April 8th 2022 (Accessed November 11th 2022) 

 PubMed: Psoriasis Pathogenesis and Treatment March 2019 (Accessed November 11th 2022)

PubMed: Diagnosis and management of psoriasis April 2017 (Accessed November 11th 2022)

BMJ Journals: Psoriasis: epidemiology, clinical features, and quality of life March 2005 (Accessed November 11th 2022)

Psoriasis Association: About psoriasis  November 2017 (Accessed November 11th 2022)

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: What is Psoriasis?  (Accessed November 11th 2022)

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