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Psoriasis is a common skin disease that affects more than 7 million people in the United States. Patients usually have red, scaly, small to large raised areas of skin (called plaques). These commonly affect the scalp, trunk, elbows, knees, and genital areas but can affect any part of the body, including the nails. About a quarter of patients develop pain, stiffness, and swelling in their joints (psoriatic arthritis). Patients with severe psoriasis may have an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. Psoriasis also increases risk of depression.
Psoriasis is a genetic-based (inherited) disease that affects the body's immune system. Infections, stress, alcohol, and some medications may worsen the disease. Psoriasis is not contagious. The August 24/31, 2011, issue of JAMA includes an article about medications used to treat psoriasis. This Patient Page is based on one published in the December 17, 2003, issue of JAMA.
Torpy JM, Burke AE, Golub RM. Psoriasis. JAMA. 2011;306(8):896. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1162
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