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Psoriasis is a skin disease that affects more
than 4 million persons in the United States. Besides causing skin problems,
psoriasis can lead to problems with joints, fingernails and toenails, genitals,
and inside of the mouth. The most common form of psoriasis leaves patches
of scaly, red skin, usually on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, or face,
but any place on the body may be affected. These scaly patches are called plaques. The amount of affected skin varies considerably
among different individuals. Some persons develop pain, stiffness, and swelling
in their joints (for example, the knees, wrists, or elbows) associated with
psoriasis called psoriatic arthritis.Scientists have
found that psoriasis is a genetic or inherited disease that affects the body's immune (disease-fighting) system. Infections, stress, and
some medications may worsen the psoriasis disease process. Psoriasis is not
contagious. The December 17, 2003, issue of JAMA includes
an article about treatment of psoriasis in persons with extensive skin disease.
Determining if you have psoriasis
Sometimes psoriasis can be difficult to diagnose because many diseases
have signs or symptoms involving the skin. A careful history of skin abnormalities,
including their appearance and the length of time the skin problem has existed,
is very important in helping your doctor determine if you have psoriasis.
Small samples (biopsies) of skin may be removed and
examined with a microscope or other special testing equipment. Psoriasis is
a skin disease that may improve or worsen, but it usually does not go away
entirely. However, treating psoriasis can improve the state of the skin and
make quality of life better. Dermatologists are doctors
with specialized training in treating diseases of the skin and nails, including
Psoriasis treatment options
Topical (on surface of
the skin) medications, including corticosteroids (medications
that reduce inflammation)
with light), including sunlight or ultraviolet light
Systemic medications (oral
or injected medications that act on the whole body)
Individuals with psoriasis should take care not to injure their skin
or nails. Although light therapy is often an important part of psoriasis treatment,
sunburn should be avoided because it can make psoriasis worse. Your doctor
needs to individualize your treatments for psoriasis because the disease may
affect you in ways different from others.
For more information
American Academy of Dermatology847/330-0230http://www.aad.org
National Psoriasis Foundation800/723-9166http://www.psoriasis.org
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal
and Skin Diseases301/495-4484http://www.niams.nih.gov
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
Index on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish.
Sources: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin
Diseases, American Academy of Dermatology, National Psoriasis FoundationPhoto
Courtesy of Kenneth Gordon, MD, Loyola University Medical Center
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval.
To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
TOPIC: SKIN DISEASES
Photo Courtesy of Kenneth Gordon, MD, Loyola University Medical Center
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Psoriasis. JAMA. 2003;290(23):3160. doi:10.1001/jama.290.23.3043
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