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Symptoms of Psoriasis: More Than Just Dry, Scaly Skin

Medically reviewed by Angeli Eloise E. Torres, MD, DPDS · Dermatology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Aug 18, 2022

Symptoms of Psoriasis: More Than Just Dry, Scaly Skin

Psoriasis is a condition that causes itchy, red, flaky blemishes on the skin. It may seem like a simple dermatological disease. However, psoriasis is actually an immunological disorder. Learn more about the symptoms of psoriasis here.

Why Does Psoriasis Occur?

Normally, healthy skin cells take a month to split, mature, and move up to the outer layer of the skin to replace the older cells. With psoriasis, however, certain white blood cells become overactive which causes skin cell division to accelerate from 1 month to 3-5 days. So skin cells that have not fully matured migrate to the outer layer of the skin. This causes the symptoms of psoriasis such as hardened, crusty patches of skin and flaky skin shedding. 

What Are the Symptoms of Psoriasis?

Psorisasis manifests as:

  • Itchy, red, flaky patches of skin, often with silvery scales that shed
  • Swollen and stiff joints
  • Itching, burning, or soreness of the skin
  • Pitted or ridged nails

The size and location of the affected areas can vary from small dandruff-sized spots to large patches. The symptoms of psoriasis vary depending on the type of psoriasis and the severity of the condition, with the severity being measured in BSA (Body Surface Area).

Levels of severity:

Mild Psoriasis

Less than or equal to 3 percent of the body surface area. Patients’ quality of life won’t be affected too much as the area covered is small enough and can be dealt with with the timely and consistent application of topical treatments and therapy. 

Moderate Psoriasis

It covers 3 to 10 percent of the body surface area. It is difficult to treat with topical therapy, and is very noticeable. This type has substantial effects on the patients’ quality of life due to either the size of the area covered, location of the blemishes (i.e. face, genitals, palms of the hands, or soles of the feet), or the pain and itchiness caused by said blemishes.  

Severe Psoriasis

It covers 10 percent or more of the body surface area. This degree of severity can no longer be effectively treated through topical treatments and therapy. It can also have adverse effects on the patients’ quality of life. If the symptoms of psoriasis keep increasing and reaches this point, immediately see your doctor as some extreme cases can lead to death. 

Different Types of Psoriasis

Psoriasis is categorized into the following types and the symptoms of psoriasis are as follows.

  • Plaque Psoriasis. This is the most commonly seen type. This causes the signature symptoms of psoriasis: red, flaky skin with silvery shedding scales. It usually appears on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp areas.
  • Nail Psoriasis. This can affect fingernails and toenails. It causes pitting (the small crater-like dents very similar to the dimples in a golf ball) in the fingers and toenails. And abnormal nail growth may cause finger and toenails to loosen, crumble, or separate from the nail bed.
  • Guttate Psoriasis. This type usually affects young adults and children. These are small, drop-shaped blemishes on the body, arms, and legs. This is caused by viral and bacterial infections such as strep throat and tonsillitis, or other factors such as stress, skin injuries, and antimalaria or beta-blocker medications.
  • Inverse Psoriasis. This type causes symptoms of psoriasis that appear as smooth patches of red skin that are worsened by sweat and friction. It affects skin folds of the breasts, buttocks, and groin, and may be triggered by fungal infections.
  • Pustular Psoriasis. This is a less common type that causes pus-filled blemishes in either large patches or smaller spots in the palms of the hands and/or soles of the feet.
  • Erythrodermic Psoriasis. This is perhaps the rarest and most dangerous type of psoriasis. This can cover the entire body with a red, flaky rash that can cause severe itchiness or intense burning pains. Some severe cases can also be fatal. 
  • Complications of Psoriasis

    Aside from general discomfort due to itchiness and the emotional toll caused by this very evident skin condition, psoriasis can also lead to the following complications.

    Psoriatic Arthritis

    Swollen and painful joints commonly seen in any type of arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is a result of psoriasis attacking healthy cells and tissue, causing inflammation in the joints. This may cause joint pain and stiffness and, in some severe cases, permanent joint damage. 

    Cardiovascular Diseases

    Patients with psoriasis have an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke. It is unclear what exactly the link is between cardiovascular disease and psoriasis. However, inflammation and an abnormal immune response is the speculated cause.  

    Other Conditions

    Psoriasis patients have an increased risk of developing other diseases such as diabetes, Crohn disease, and metabolic syndrome. People who get aggressive treatments for psoriasis may also have an increased risk of certain types of cancers. 

    Key Takeaways

    Psoriasis is a multisystem disease that is relatively prevalent and can adversely affect a patient’s quality of life. So if you notice any signs and symptoms of psoriasis, immediately go to the nearest doctor for advice.
    While most cases are a mild inconvenience at best, one must still be careful and dutiful with the prescribed treatment. At times it can grow out of control and possibly even be fatal. Always consult your doctor for any concerns.

    Learn more about Psoriasis here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Angeli Eloise E. Torres, MD, DPDS

    Dermatology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Aug 18, 2022

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