Psoriasis: your top 10 questions answered

Stephanie Munn
Dermatology Clinical Lead at Bupa UK
22 October 2019
Next review due October 2022

Around two in every 100 people have psoriasis: a condition that causes red, scaly patches of inflamed skin. Psoriasis is a common enough problem that plenty of people search online about it to find out the facts. So here, I’ve picked the top 10 most searched questions about psoriasis and answered them all in one place.

1. Is psoriasis an autoimmune disease?

Psoriasis can happen because your immune system (which has the role of helping your body to fend off illness) is overactive. This causes your skin to become inflamed, and skin tissue to grow at a faster rate than usual. Autoimmune diseases happen when your immune system mistakes healthy cells for cells that make you ill, and attacks them. In the case of psoriasis, your body mistakenly tries to protect you from your own skin cells, which causes the inflammation. So while multiple things may play a part in causing psoriasis, the condition is now often thought of by doctors as an autoimmune disease.

2. What helps psoriasis?

Your GP may recommend various treatments, including creams, shampoos, light therapy, tablets or injections. These treatments could help ease your symptoms, but the option that’s best for you will depend on your personal situation and the type of psoriasis you have.

Along with anything your doctor recommends, some people find that regularly, liberally applying moisturising creams you can buy over-the-counter called emollients can help reduce symptoms. It can be particularly helpful to apply these creams when your skin is still damp after a bath or shower.

On top of that, gradual and safe exposure to sunlight is often reported to improve the skin’s appearance for people who have psoriasis. Be sure to stay sun safe.

3. Is psoriasis painful?

You may find your skin itchy, sore and uncomfortable during a flare-up. Psoriasis that affects the scalp or groin may be particularly troublesome. In severe cases of plaque psoriasis, the skin around your joints may crack and bleed.

4. Is psoriasis a fungus?

No. Psoriasis is caused by inflammation as a result of your immune system, rather than a fungal infection. Fungal infections are contagious – psoriasis isn’t. Although fungal infections can cause scaly plaques, they’re usually found on different parts of the body and are contained to much smaller sites than psoriasis can cover.

5. What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a long-term condition that you can get at any age. It causes your skin cells to shed their top layer and replace themselves at a faster rate than for someone without the condition. That often results in a build-up of red, crusty patches on your skin.

6. Can psoriasis spread?

Psoriasis can’t be spread from one person to another – it’s not contagious. But if you have psoriasis, it can start in one area of your body and then flare up in other areas too.

7. What are the symptoms of psoriasis?

Different types of psoriasis have their own appearance and symptoms, but what usually unites them is the formation of thick, red patches – called plaques – on your skin. These may vary in their size and number. They can appear in different places across your body.

The skin may be itchy or sore. It may also shed skin scales, which can be more noticeable when you’re wearing dark clothing.

8. Can psoriasis go away?

Psoriasis is a life-long condition and there’s no cure, but it waxes and wanes and may sometimes disappear completely. There are lots of ways to keep managing the condition and reduce your symptoms. You’ll probably go through times when you don’t have symptoms, and other times when you have flare-ups.

9. Can stress cause psoriasis?

Stress may cause a flare-up of psoriasis if you already have the condition. Or if you have a tendency towards the condition, stress could cause the symptoms to present themselves. Along with stress, there are other external triggers that may cause a flare-up, including smoking, drinking too much alcohol and throat infections.

10. What is psoriasis caused by?

There are multiple reasons why psoriasis happens. These include environmental triggers and being genetically predisposed to psoriasis. When it comes to genetics, some genes have been linked to the condition, but we don’t know for sure why some people develop psoriasis while others don’t. What’s more, if you have a family member who has psoriasis, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it too.

Are you interested in learning more about your health? Discover more about our range of health assessments.

Stephanie Munn
Dr Stephanie Munn
Dermatology Clinical Lead at Bupa UK

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    • Psoriasis. Patient Info., last edited December 2018
    • Psoriasis. BMJ Best Practice., last updated January 2019
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    • Søyland E, Heier I, Rodríguez‐Gallego C et al. Sun exposure induces rapid immunological changes in skin and peripheral blood in patients with psoriasis. BJD 2011; 164(2):344-355.
    • Types of psoriasis. Psoriasis Association., accessed October 2019
    • Psoriasis. British Skin Foundation., accessed October 2019
    • Guttate psoriasis. Medscape., last updated October 2019

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