Psoriasis Symptoms and Complications

There are several types of psoriasis, each with its own signs and symptoms.

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a woman experiencing psoriasis symptoms
Psoriasis symptoms can range from a few spots to major eruptions.Getty Images

The signs and symptoms of?psoriasis?vary depending on the person and type of psoriasis.

Although psoriasis is a chronic condition that lasts a lifetime, some people may find that symptoms clear up for months or years at a time. This is known as remission.

Common symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • Plaques — raised, inflamed patches of skin covered with scale (the buildup of dead skin cells). On white skin, plaques typically appear red with silvery-white scale, while on skin of color plaques may be purple, gray, or dark brown
  • Small, round, scaly spots (common in children with psoriasis)
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
  • Itching, burning, or soreness
  • Thickened, pitted, or ridged nails
  • Swollen and stiff joints

Psoriasis patches can range from a few spots of dandruff-like scaling to major eruptions that cover large areas.

Most types of psoriasis go through cycles, flaring for a few weeks or months, then subsiding for a time or even going into complete remission.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Plaque Psoriasis?

Plaque psoriasis?is the most prevalent type of psoriasis. As many as 90 percent of people with psoriasis have this form.

If you have plaque psoriasis, one of the most common symptoms is raised, inflamed patches of skin that are covered with scale. These patches are known as plaques. The following are signs that you may have plaque psoriasis:

  • Raised, inflamed skin patches that can appear anywhere on the body
  • A scaly coating on skin patches
  • Frequent locations for patches include the knees, elbows, lower back, and?scalp
  • Itching
  • Patches that thicken when scratched
  • Patches varying in size, either alone or joined together
  • Nails that are pitted, crumbling, or falling off

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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Guttate Psoriasis?

Guttate psoriasis?is the second most common type of psoriasis, affecting roughly 8 percent of people who have the disease.

This type of psoriasis may clear up without any treatment, but it sometimes requires medical attention. It may appear for a single episode, typically following an illness like strep throat, or it may signal the start of plaque psoriasis.

Symptoms of guttate psoriasis include:

  • Small spots that are most common on the trunk, arms, and legs, but can show up anywhere on the body
  • Spots that clear up in a few weeks or months without treatment

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Pustular Psoriasis?

Pustular psoriasis?is an uncommon form of the disease that affects an estimated 3 percent of people with psoriasis. It often occurs in older adults, though it can appear in people of any age.

Possible symptoms include:
  • Discolored, swollen, and dotted skin with pus-filled bumps
  • Bumps, often only on the palms and soles
  • Sore, painful bumps
  • Discolored dots or scale on the skin after pus-filled bumps dry

When pus-filled bumps cover the body, you may have inflamed skin and feel ill, exhausted, have a fever, chills, severe itching, rapid pulse, loss of appetite, or muscle weakness.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Inverse Psoriasis?

Inverse psoriasis, also known as flexural psoriasis, is a type of psoriasis that forms in skin folds, such as the armpits, genitals, and under the breasts.

Inverse psoriasis occurs in 21 to 30 percent of people with psoriasis, usually alongside some other form of the condition. It can be one of the most painful and irritating forms of the disease.

The symptoms of inverse psoriasis include:

  • Smooth, discolored patches of skin — on skin of color these may appear purplish, brown, or darker than the surrounding skin, while on white skin these lesions may be bright red and shiny
  • Sore skin
  • Patches only on creases of the skin, like the armpits, near the groin, genitals, and buttocks
  • Raw patches under the fold of the breast

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Erythrodermic Psoriasis?

Erythrodermic psoriasis?is a rare, potentially life-threatening type of psoriasis, diagnosed in roughly 2 percent of people with the disease.

It is a particularly inflammatory form of psoriasis that affects most of the body, and it can occur in association with pustular psoriasis. Its symptoms include:
  • Skin that looks burned
  • Bright red or otherwise discolored skin over much of the body
  • Feeling very hot or very cold
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Intense itching
  • Severe pain

How Is Psoriasis Diagnosed?

Most of the time, your physician can diagnose psoriasis by taking your medical history and examining your skin, scalp, and nails.

In some cases, a skin biopsy may be done to determine the type of psoriasis, and to rule out other disorders that look similar to psoriasis, such as?dyshidrotic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, lichen planus,?ringworm, and pityriasis rosea.

Can Psoriasis Lead to Other Health Complications?

Having psoriasis could put you at risk for developing other medical conditions.

Your skin plays a vital role in regulating body temperature, providing hydration, and protecting against infection.

When skin disorders such as?psoriasis?affect the body, certain changes take place that may lead to additional problems.

Doctors aren’t sure if the risk of developing other conditions is solely related to the disease itself or if psoriasis treatment also plays a role.

About 30 percent of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, which is a form of psoriasis that affects the joints.

People with psoriatic arthritis experience painful, swollen joints and other symptoms.

You can develop psoriatic arthritis any time, but it most commonly appears between age 30 and 50.

Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis can increase your risk of developing the following health problems:

Cancer?In one recent meta-analysis, researchers found an association between psoriasis and an increased risk of developing cancers, including colon and liver.

The scientists note that more research is needed to better understand this link and the potential role of lifestyle factors and medications.

Cardiovascular Disease?A review of research studies concluded that people with psoriasis have an increased risk of heart disease and factors that may contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Celiac Disease?This autoimmune disorder causes damage to the small intestine in response to the consumption of gluten. A research meta-analysis concluded that psoriasis patients are at increased risk of testing positive for markers of celiac disease.

Depression?A research meta-analysis found that more than one-quarter of people with psoriasis showed symptoms of depression.

Diabetes?According to one study, people with severe psoriasis are 30 percent more likely to have?type 2 diabetes?— a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels — and approximately 9 percent of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes have psoriasis.

Tell your doctor if you experience any symptoms of type 2 diabetes, which may include hunger, increased thirst, blurred vision, or fatigue.
Eye Diseases?Certain eye conditions are more common in people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. These may include?conjunctivitis?(commonly known as pink eye), uveitis (an inflammatory disease of the eye), and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid). An estimated 7 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis will develop uveitis.

Hearing Problems?One recent study found that psoriasis significantly increased the risk of a rare form of hearing loss called SSHL (sudden sensorineural hearing loss).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) One research meta-analysis found that people with psoriasis had a 2.53-fold increased risk of developing Crohn’s disease and a 1.71-fold increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis.

Kidney Disease?People with psoriasis are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease. A study concluded that?people with severe psoriasis are twice as likely to develop chronic kidney disease as those who have mild psoriasis or no psoriasis.

Liver Disease?Psoriasis raises the risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in which too much fat is stored in the liver.

Obesity?Experts aren’t sure exactly why, but?obesity?is strongly associated with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. One recent study found an association between high body mass index (BMI) and increased risk of developing psoriasis, with the higher the BMI, the greater the risk.

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