Signs & Symptoms

A thorough guide to help you understand plaque psoriasis

A thorough guide to help you understand plaque psoriasis

When there is a problem with your immune system, you might be exposed to an inflammatory condition called psoriasis, which is mainly long-term. In this condition, skin changes followed by a few other symptoms might occur. Psoriasis can be of a couple of types, but the most common one is the plaque psoriasis. In this condition, you might experience some patches on the skin, which are both painful and itchy. Plaques can appear just about anywhere on the body and have a definite edge. However, in most cases, they affect the lower back, knees, scalp, and elbows.

As such, the exact cause of plaque psoriasis is unknown, but it is believed to be an auto-immune disorder. This means that in this disease, it is the immune system that wrongly attacks the body’s healthy cells, believing it is combating an infection. As a result of this, the newer skin cells grow at a much faster rate than usual. Moreover, they then take the form of plaque psoriasis and appear as thick patches on the skin. Furthermore, whether or not you will develop plaque psoriasis, mainly depends on your health history and genes.

It is a health condition that runs in families. Approximately 10% of the people have a particular faulty gene that they are born with, which makes them prone to the disease. Of this, only 3% of the people develop the disease.

A condition occurs only when there is a trigger, or something happens. Then as a response to the trigger, there is a reaction from the immune system. It could be a bad sunburn or an injury to the skin. Sometimes, even medications for malaria can be the triggers of plaque psoriasis. Furthermore, infections, such as strep, can also lead to psoriasis. Stress and smoking, too, are common triggers of psoriasis. In some people, allergies, weather changes, and dietary factors can be a trigger of plaque psoriasis.

Generally speaking, psoriasis is not a contagious disease. So, it wouldn’t spread by close contact or touch. Moreover, it has been observed that people who have plaque psoriasis usually suffer from other conditions too, and that might be the real cause of inflammation. Some of these conditions include diabetes, obesity, Crohn’s disease, fatty liver, and metabolic syndrome. People who have this are more prone to get uveitis, (which is a type of eye disease), depression, and heart disease. These might also put you at risk of psoriatic arthritis, which might lead to joint deformities, pain in the joints, swelling of the joints, and stiffness in the joints.

One of the first symptoms of plaque psoriasis is the appearance of pink plaques on the skin. These plaques have clear edges and are both itchy and uncomfortable. Often, they will bleed and crack, causing serious difficulties. People with comparatively darker skin will get plaques that have a darker hue and are more on the purplish side. You might also experience silvery or white scales that cover the surface of the plaques. The hallmark symptom of this disease is skin plaques, but it can affect areas beyond the skin too.

Other symptoms that are commonly noted in people include:

  • Changes in the nail color
  • Nail pitting
  • Joint pain

In more severe cases, people might show symptoms of psoriatic arthritis that involves inflammation and pain in the joints. There may be a flare-up of the symptoms, and that can last for many weeks or months. In some cases, during remission, the symptoms might disappear completely.

A skin doctor or a dermatologist can ascertain the presence of plaque psoriasis by simply looking at your skin and the nails. He will also ask you questions related to your medical history. In a few cases, a doctor will perform a biopsy for the confirmation of the plaque psoriasis. For this, a small tiny sample of the skin is taken and examined under a microscope. It is a helpful process that will rule out every other related condition.

Treatment options
The treatment of the plaque psoriasis is targeted at reducing the impact of the symptoms. Thus, depending upon the severity or the type of symptom, a treatment option will be chosen. In the course of the disease, you’ll undergo cycles wherein there will be times when the rash looks slightly okay, but then it might flare up anytime again. The treatment is primarily subjected to less severe and fewer flare-ups.

Here is a list of some of the treatment options available for plaque psoriasis.

Topical treatment

It is the first treatment option and is primarily for people with mild symptoms. This treatment method can be conducted at home only.

The primary ingredients found in topical treatments are:

  • Topical retinoids
  • Salicylic acid
  • Emollients
  • Corticosteroids
  • Synthetic vitamin D

Application of an ointment or a cream with one or more of the listed ingredients can help in:

  • Slowing down the process of cell growth
  • Soothe your skin
  • Ease down inflammation
  • Reduce skin cracking
  • Relieve dryness of the skin
  • Help you overcome itching

You can easily find different topical treatments at a pharmacist. These ointments can also be purchased online, both with or without a doctor’s prescription. However, before you use any topical treatment, you should check with your pharmacist or a doctor. Certain creams or ointments might work better on you than others. However, there is not enough scientific proof to ascertain whether a particular cream or ointment would be safe for use or not.

Systemic treatments
Systemic medications are used to treat patients with severe or moderate symptoms of plaque psoriasis. These may be injected or taken orally.

Some prominent examples of systemic treatments and medications are:

  • Acitretin
  • Cyclosporine
  • Methotrexate

The effect of this treatment will likely depend on the type of treatment used. However, in most cases, it will include a change in the working of the immune system and the reduction of inflammation. Continuous monitoring by the doctor is required to ensure that there are no adverse effects of this treatment.

Biologic medicines
Biologics include medications that target the primary triggers of psoriasis. They also positively impact the immune system by preventing it from causing inflammation. This treatment measure is used by the doctor when the patient has severe or moderate symptoms. Some of the examples of biologic medicines include guselkumab, ustekinumab, brodalumab, adalimumab, etanercept, risankizumab, ixekizumab, infliximab, and secukinumab. These medications are either injected or taken in the form of an oral shot. However, the consumption of these medicines might make it hard for you to combat an infection.

Phototherapy or light therapy
Phototherapy, also known as light therapy, is used when the rash is extensive. In this case, the treatment is done via the use of ultraviolet light. This is performed either with a special box at home or a doctor’s clinic.

Phototherapy involves:

  • PUVA that is an amalgamation of UVA exposure and medication
  • Use of lightbox for exposure to UVB light
  • Exposure to natural sunlight

However, going out in the sun might make you vulnerable to skin cancer. So, do not overexpose yourself to the sun and apply sunscreen on every area of your body that has plaques. The key objective of this therapy is to target the skin lesions and get rid of the skin patches.

Preventive measures
As such, there’s no specific preventive measure for plaque psoriasis, but you can certainly do things that can prevent the flare-up of the disease. Usually, people who develop plaque psoriasis tend to have it all through their lives. Here are some measures that you can take to tackle it better.

Avoid triggers
First of all, try to find the possible trigger of plaque psoriasis, and then try to avoid it as much as possible. Certain things like smoking or stress do not necessarily cause plaque psoriasis, but if you have it, it can trigger the condition and make it worse. Some of the common triggers include:

  • Allergies
  • Alcohol
  • Hormones
  • Dry weather
  • Cold weather

Keep a check on what you eat
There is no real evidence that there are a few food items that can trigger or reduce the impact of plaque psoriasis, but losing weight certainly can help you keep a check on your symptoms. Thus, it is essential to eat healthy food. Eat a diet that is low in dairy products and try to cut out fatty meat from your diet. Add a good amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet as they can help you overcome inflammation.

Take good care of your skin
Use a good-quality moisturizer as it can make your skin less itchy and also make plaque soft. Use of Epsom salt or colloidal oatmeal in the bath can also be useful for soothing your skin.

Seek support
It is inevitable, but certain people might be emotionally disturbed because of plaque psoriasis. It might make you self-conscious about the way you look. This can make it overwhelming for you to go through specific extreme measures to manage it. Some people with plaque psoriasis also experience stress and depression. If you ever feel that you need help to overcome this feeling, enroll yourself in therapy, or get medicine to fight anxiety and depression. It is always good to communicate with someone who understands what you might be going through. They can help you with an effective coping mechanism.

Try to work things with a dermatologist

Try to update your doctor whenever you experience a new change in your condition. It might require a change in the treatment measure. Also, never stop the medication you are taking, as it can lead to further illness. Keep a close check on your symptoms, and if it triggers something like joint pain, immediately get tested for psoriatic arthritis.


As we have already discussed, plaque psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition. Though there is only limited research on this, many people who have the disease believe they can better manage the disease if they add more inflammation-fighting food items in their diet. Furthermore, studies suggest that adding antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, selenium, and vitamin E, can make a massive difference. Some studies even suggest that fatty acid found in seeds and nuts can have a positive impact. However, there is certainly more research needed on this subject. Since anti-inflammatory foods are good for health, it shouldn’t hurt to try.

Food that you should consume

Some of the anti-inflammatory food items include:

  • Fruits such as cherries and berries
  • Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach
  • Foods with high Omega-3 fatty acid content
  • Spices or herbs that have good antioxidant value, such as ginger, thyme, cumin, or sage
  • Healthy fat from nuts, olive oil, and seeds

Food that you shouldn’t consume

Certain food items are known to trigger inflammation. Thus, it is best to either limit or cut them out of the diet completely. These include:

  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Red meat
  • Processed food

Lifestyle changes

Few studies state that both drinking alcohol and smoking aggravate psoriasis. So, if you are taking medication to treat plaque psoriasis, things can go wrong because of alcohol. Some lifestyle changes that might be required at your end include:

  • Limiting your alcohol consumption and being a moderate drinker instead of a regular drinker.
  • Stop smoking immediately.
  • If a medication specifically warns you of alcohol mixing, beware, even if it doesn’t state explicitly, avoid mixing treatment medicines with alcohol.

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