What is Plaque Psoriasis?

what is plaque psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis. It is red patches on the skin with white silvery scales of dead skin. These patches often appear on the scalp, knees, elbows, back, legs, or arms.  They are sometimes itchy and painful because they crack and bleed. It is characterized by skin cells that multiply 10 times faster than normal. It can be on soles of feet, hands and torso.

Sometimes patients have disorders of the fingernails and toenails. It is thought to be related to the immune system and cells. One type of white blood cell called T-cells attack healthy skin in people with psoriasis. Usually these cells fight off infections and viruses.  When seeing a doctor you should ask what is psoriasis?


These overactive T-cells cause other symptoms to occur. It causes dilation of blood vessels around the skin and allows other white blood cells to enter the outer layer of skin. New skin cells move to the outer skin layer too fast. The dead skin and white blood cells are not sloughed off quickly enough. Genetics and the environment are often the cause.

Often psoriasis start s with a sore throat, stress, sunburn, bruise, smoking, drinking, or medications. When you see a doctor they will take your medical history and examine the skin where you are infected. They sometimes take a skin biopsy that is examined under the microscope. It is often done in the doctor’s office using medication to relieve pain.

Psoriasis treatments are designed to stop skin cells from dividing so quickly. This reduces inflammation and plaque from forming. Most often the doctor will prescribe topical treatments, light therapy, and oral or injected medications. Cream and ointments often used to  treat mild to moderate psoriasis.

Topical Treatments

Corticosteroids are creams with anti inflammatory properties. The suppress cell turnover by suppressing the immune system. They range from mild in strength to very strong. They are usually used on psoriasis outbreaks until they are under control. Retnoids are often used to treat acne and sun damaged skin. Tazorac and Avage with Vitamin A decrease inflammation and help skin cells. Common side effects are skin irritation.

Salicylic acids both prescription and over the counter helps promote the sloughing off of dead skin cells and reduces scaling. Coal tar is one of the oldest treatments used. It reduces scaling, itching and inflammation.  It is a thick black crème know for staining.  

Light Therapy

Exposure of patients to sunlight for short periods of time may reduce psoriasis. This is because sunlight kills activated T-cells in the skin. It slows turnover and reduces inflammation. Too much sun can worsen the condition check with your doctor first. UBV photo therapy is controlled light from an artificial source that sometimes improves psoriasis. It is used for mild to moderate cases. Narrow band UBV therapy is similar but often given two or three times a week. It might cause more serve burns. Goeckerman therapy is when the doctor uses light therapy with coal tar crème. It is more effective than both treatments alone. It is performed in the doctor’s office.

Photo chemotherapy is a treatment that the patient takes a medication that makes them more sensitive to light. They use UVA light that penetrates the skin more deeply and is used in more severe cases. It often is  two or three treatments a week. It has side effects and is not used for long periods of time. The excimer laser is used to treat psosais. It requires less treatments and helps with scaling and blistering

Medications Oral and Injected and Lifestyle Changes

There are many oral medications and prescription pills that are used to treat psoriasis.  Medications used are retoinds, methotexate, cyclosporine, immune system drugs, and experimental medications. Biologics are drug injected into the body to help an overactive immune system. It blocks the protein that cause inflammation and immune system responses. Some of the drugs used are Stelara and Humira.

Some lifestyle changes are take daily warm bath daily to remove dead skin and scales. Use moisturizer after bathing and try to expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight. Try to keep stress down and avoid drinking alcohol because it decreases some psoriasis treatments.

When you have plaque psoriasis visit the doctor to find out the psoriasis cause. He will determine the best treatment for your type and condition. There are many type of psoriasis so he will determine what type you have and the best type of treatment crèmes, medications, or light therapy. Don’t suffer there are many treatments for this skin condition. 

By Joan Russell