Skin Care What Is Psoriasis? Symptoms, Treatment, and More By Dermatology, April 20, 2014 Psoriasis is a common skin condition characterized by red, irritated skin with flaky patches or scales. Even though anyone can be affected, it typically appears in those who are between the ages of 15 and 35. Psoriasis looks like a rash and can flare up on any part of the body, but it is usually found on the elbows and knees. It is not contagious and cannot be spread to others. Doctors believe that it may be hereditary, and environment may also be a factor. “Psoriasis is a disease that we think of as having a genetic as well as an environmental component to it,” says Laura K. Ferris, MD, PhD, Department of Dermatology at UPMC. “Some patients are just more likely to develop psoriasis than others, and that’s part of their genetic code. However, we do know that the environment also plays a role. For example, when patients have an infection, particularly strep infection, they can experience a flare in their psoriasis.” Flare ups can also be caused by: Burns Cuts Dry air Certain medications Sunburn Stress Psoriasis usually appears slowly, sometimes disappearing and reappearing, and it is not uncommon for your skin to become itchy, pink or red, and raised and thick. It can also lead to fingernail abnormalities, severe dandruff on your scalp, joint pain, or genital sores in males. Treatment can vary depending on several factors, so you should see your primary care doctor or dermatologist to determine the method that may be right for you. “When your doctor evaluates your psoriasis he or she will determine how severe it is and take into consideration what has and has not worked in the past,” Dr. Ferris says. “Your doctor will also need to look at other medications you are taking, as well as determine your risk factors for complications and how treatments may fit in with your lifestyle.” Treatments may be topical (applied to your skin) or systemic (taken orally or injected), and may even include phototherapy, or light therapy. If you think you may have psoriasis, talk to your doctor about management options that may be right for you. For more information about clinical trials for psoriasis patients, please visit the clinical trials page.