Understanding the 5 Types of Psoriasis

Sep 09, 2022
Understanding the 5 Types of Psoriasis
Millions of people have psoriasis, an inflammatory skin condition that causes scaly, rash-like patches that can be itchy and tender. Learn about the various causes and types of psoriasis, and find out which treatment solutions can help.

Psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition that affects about 8 million people in the United States. Although it’s primarily known for the itchy, scaly patches it causes, psoriasis isn’t simply a cosmetic problem — nearly three in five people who develop the condition say it affects their lives daily. 

While there’s no cure for psoriasis, our seasoned team of board-certified dermatologists at Florida Dermatology Associates offers advanced, integrative solutions to help you clear your skin, prevent flare-ups and manage the condition effectively.

Here, we explore the five main forms of psoriasis and discuss management strategies and treatment options that can help.

Basic facts about psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disorder that accelerates the growth cycle of epidermal cells, causing your skin to grow much faster than usual. Rather than forming over the course of a week, psoriasis prompts new skin cell growth within days. 

As epidermal cells rapidly accumulate on the surface of your skin, they form into thick, scaly patches that are often itchy, tender, and sore. Psoriasis patches become thicker and scalier over time; without proper care, they can dry out, form cracks, and bleed.  

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis isn’t a contagious infection — it’s the product of an immune system error. Like other autoimmune disorders, genetic factors typically play a role in its development; if a close relative like a parent or sibling has it, you’re more likely to develop it too. 

When genetically predisposed to psoriasis, external factors may trigger its emergence or make an existing case worse. Psoriasis triggers include:

  • Skin injuries (cuts, sunburns)
  • Recurrent infections (strep throat)
  • Prolonged vitamin D deficiency
  • Medication (beta blockers, lithium)
  • High, uncontrolled stress levels
  • Smoking or excessive drinking 

Although psoriasis can develop at any age, it has two common peaks of onset: between 20 and 30 years old and between 50 and 60 years old. 

Five main types of psoriasis 

Psoriasis takes many different forms. The following five types account for most cases: 

1. Plaque psoriasis

The most common form of psoriasis causes thick, raised lesions covered with white or silvery scales. While these patches often develop on the scalp, elbows, knees, or lower back, they can appear anywhere — including inside your mouth. Specifically, plaque psoriasis affects nearly 80-90% of people with psoriasis. 

2. Nail psoriasis

This type of psoriasis affects fingernails and toenails. It may cause pitted or crumbling nails, yellow-brown spots and discoloration, or nails separating from the nail bed. Nail psoriasis can occur by itself or develop with another form of psoriasis. 

3. Scalp psoriasis 

On the scalp, psoriasis patches may be thick and scaly or thin and smooth. Whether thick or thin, scalp psoriasis patches can spread beyond the top of the head to the forehead, ears, or neck. Very thick scalp patches can lead to hair loss.  

4. Inverse psoriasis

Found in skin folds (armpits, groin, buttocks, or beneath the breasts), inverse psoriasis causes shiny, smooth patches of inflamed skin instead of rough, scaly ones. Inverse psoriasis worsens with friction and sweating and is often triggered by a fungal infection.  

5. Guttate psoriasis

Instead of causing large, thick lesions, guttate psoriasis causes a scattering of small, scaling patches, usually across the midsection (back and abdomen), arms, or legs. It usually affects children, adolescents, or young adults and is frequently triggered by a bacterial infection like strep throat.  

Controlling your psoriasis 

Psoriasis treatment aims to reduce inflammation, clear your skin, and prevent flare-ups. Primary treatment methods include topical ointments, medication, light therapy, and trigger management. 

Topical treatments

Corticosteroids and retinoids are medicated creams or lotions applied directly to psoriasis patches and provide the most benefit for mild to moderate cases of psoriasis. 

Systemic medicines

Topical ointments are often combined with oral or injected medications to treat more severe psoriasis flare-ups. Most of these medicines can only be taken for short periods. 

Ultraviolet light therapy 

Through targeted exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, light therapy slows cell turnover to help reduce psoriasis scaling and inflammation. Because the laser doesn’t target healthy tissues, it delivers a high-dose UV light treatment for faster clearing and longer remission. 

Flare-up prevention

To manage psoriasis effectively, it’s key to determine factors that might trigger a flare-up or make an existing outbreak worse for you. While psoriasis triggers vary from one person to the next, avoiding common triggers that are problematic is a beneficial way to prevent uncomfortable flare-ups. 

If you need help with psoriasis, we can help. Call Florida Dermatology Associates today, or book online to schedule a visit at one of our five offices in Palm Bay, Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Cocoa, or Titusville, Florida.