Is it a rash or psoriasis?

Rashes are common, and can be caused by many things. But, how do you know if you have just a minor rash, or if it’s something more serious — like psoriasis?

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A rash is anything that involves changes in the color or texture of the skin. It often starts quickly and is very itchy. Also referred to as dermatitis, skin redness or inflammation or skin lesions, rashes can often be determined from its visible characteristics and other symptoms.

Common causes of rashes include:

  • Chemicals in elastic, latex, and rubber products.
  • Cosmetics, soaps, and detergents.
  • Dyes and other chemicals in clothing.
  • Poison ivy, oak, or sumac.


Psoriasis may be passed down through families, but is not contagious. The main symptom of the condition is irritated, red, flaky patches of skin, called scales. Scales are most often seen on the elbows, knees, and middle of the body, but can appear anywhere including the scalp.

If you have psoriasis, your skin may be:

  • Itchy, but sometimes may not be.
  • Dry and covered with silver, flaky skin (scales).
  • Pink-red in color (like the color of salmon).
  • Raised and thick.

Psoriasis worsens in the fall and winter months.  If you think your skin condition is more than just a common rash and may be psoriasis, visit your PCP or dermatologist.

About Dermatology

The UPMC Department of Dermatology diagnoses, treats, and manages numerous hair, skin, and nail conditions and diseases. We care for common and uncommon conditions, and our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We operate several specialty centers for various conditions. The UPMC Cosmetic Surgery and Skin Health Center is a comprehensive dermatologic laser facility, offering a full range of cosmetic services and procedures. With UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a Skin Cancer Program that provides complete care from screenings, diagnosis, treatment, and beyond. Find a dermatology provider near you.