Psoriasis (cont.)

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What are psoriasis symptoms and signs? What does psoriasis look like?

Psoriasis appears as red or pink areas of thickened, raised, and scaling skin. It classically affects skin over the elbows, knees, and scalp. Although any area of the body may be involved, it tends to be more common in areas of friction, trauma, or rubbing. Psoriasis may appear in several different forms, including psoriasis vulgaris (plaques), guttate psoriasis (small, drop-like spots), inverse psoriasis (in the folds like of the underarms, navel, groin, and buttocks), and pustular psoriasis (small pus-filled yellowish blisters).

When the palms and the soles are involved, this is known as palmoplantar psoriasis. Sometimes pulling off one of these small dry white flakes of skin causes a tiny blood spot on the skin. This is medically referred to as a special diagnostic sign in psoriasis called the Auspitz sign. Genital lesions, especially on the head of the penis, are common. Psoriasis in moist areas like the navel or the area between the buttocks (intergluteal folds) may look like flat red patches. This may be confused with other skin conditions like fungal infections, yeast infections, skin irritation, or bacterial infections. Fingernails and toenails often exhibit small pits (pinpoint depressions), yellowish-brown separations of the tip of the nail, and a brownish discoloration of the nail bed called an "oil spot." Nail psoriasis may be confused with and incorrectly diagnosed as a fungal nail infection. Scalp psoriasis may look like severe dandruff with dry flakes and red areas of skin. It may be difficult to differentiate between scalp psoriasis and seborrhea when only the scalp is involved. However, the treatment is often very similar for both conditions.

How do health-care professionals diagnose psoriasis?

The diagnosis of psoriasis is typically made by integrating the physical examination with the medical history and relevant family history.

Picture of psoriasis on the elbows
Picture of psoriasis on the elbows. Source:
Picture of psoriasis on the hands
Picture of psoriasis on the hands. Source:

Sometimes, lab tests, including a microscopic examination of a skin biopsy, and X-rays may necessary.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2015

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