Psoriasis

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Psoriasis is not contagious.

Is Psoriasis Contagious?

No. Psoriasis is not contagious. Psoriasis is not transmitted sexually or by physical contact. Psoriasis is not caused by lifestyle, diet, or bad hygiene.

While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, researchers consider environmental, genetic, and immune system factors as playing roles in the establishment of the disease.

Quick GuidePsoriasis Types, Images, Treatments

Psoriasis Types, Images, Treatments

Psoriasis facts

  • Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease.
  • Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are more common in people with psoriasis.
  • Psoriasis can be initiated by certain environmental triggers.
  • A predisposition for psoriasis is inherited in genes.
  • Although symptoms and signs vary, they include red, scaling plaques of itchy, elevated skin affecting the elbows, knees and scalp.
  • Psoriasis is not contagious.
  • Psoriasis gets better and worse spontaneously and can have periodic remissions (clear skin).
  • Psoriasis is controllable with medication.
  • Psoriasis is currently not curable.
  • There are many promising new therapies, including newer biologic drugs.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a noncontagious skin condition that produces plaques of thickened, scaling skin. The dry flakes of skin scales result from the excessively rapid proliferation of skin cells. The proliferation of skin cells is triggered by inflammatory chemicals produced by specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes. Psoriasis commonly affects the skin of the elbows, knees, and scalp.

Some people have such mild, limited psoriasis that they may not even suspect that they have the disease. Others have very severe psoriasis that affects their entire body surface.

Psoriasis is considered an incurable, long-term (chronic) skin condition. It has a variable course, periodically improving and worsening. It is not unusual for psoriasis to spontaneously clear for years and stay in remission. Many people note a worsening of their symptoms in the colder winter months.

Picture of scalp psoriasis
Picture of scalp psoriasis. Source: iStock.com.

Psoriasis affects all races and both sexes. Although psoriasis can be seen in people of any age, from babies to seniors, most commonly patients are first diagnosed in their early adult years. The quality of life of patients with psoriasis is often diminished because of the appearance of their skin. Recently, it has become clear that people with psoriasis are more likely to have diabetes, high blood lipids, and cardiovascular disease. This may reflect an inability to control inflammation. Caring for psoriasis takes medical teamwork.

Picture of psoriasis on the legs
Picture of psoriasis on the legs. Source: iStock.com.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/22/2016

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