What Are Common Symptoms Of Psoriasis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2016.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition, in which excess inflammation causes a range of different symptoms on the skin, nails, and joints. Some of the most common symptoms of the condition are:

  • Plaques (red, scaly patches)
  • Itching and burning
  • Cracking and bleeding
  • White pustules
  • Small scaling spots
  • Pain
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Nail changes
  • Hair loss
  • Dandruff-like flaking

What are psoriasis plaques?

Plaques are the most common symptom of and the name for a subtype of psoriasis, affecting around 80% of the more than 7 million people living with psoriasis in the United States1. Plaques are patches of thickened, inflamed skin that are usually red in color and covered in a surface layer of silvery scales. Plaques can be painful, itchy, and prone to cracking and bleeding. They can occur anywhere on the skin, but common locations include the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back.

For more information on the symptom of plaques

What kind of itching and burning can psoriasis cause?

Itching and burning due to psoriasis is another very common symptom, which is estimated to affect up to 90% of people with the condition2. The itching caused by psoriasis is different than itch due to other causes or skin conditions. The itching can be very intense, happen frequently, and occur in areas of skin without visible plaques. Itching and burning are symptoms that can greatly affect the quality of life of psoriasis patients.

For more information on the symptoms of itching and burning

What type of cracking and bleeding can psoriasis cause?

Because the skin affected by plaques can be extremely dry, it can also be prone to painful cracking and bleeding. This tends to affect plaques on and around the joints (such as the elbows and knees) more often than other areas of the body3, because regular moving and flexing of the joints can stretch and crack the surface of the plaque.

For more information on the symptoms of cracking and bleeding

What are white pustules caused by psoriasis?

White pustules are the main symptom of a rare type of psoriasis called pustular psoriasis. This condition, which affects less than 2% of adults with psoriasis in the United States, causes small white pustules that look like blisters to appear on the skin4. Pustular psoriasis can be a very serious condition, and requires immediate and powerful treatment to prevent serious complications.

For more information on the symptom of white pustules

What are small scaling spots caused by psoriasis?

Small red or pinkish spots that are shaped like little teardrops are the main symptoms of a type of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis. The spots can have a thin layer of fine scaling on top of them, and a person may have just a few spots or hundreds of them. Guttate psoriasis is usually caused by an infection like strep throat. It is the second most common type of the condition, which affects about 10% of people with psoriasis5.

For more information on the symptom of small scaling spots

What kind of pain can psoriasis cause?

For many patients, living with psoriasis can cause a great deal of discomfort and pain. Plaques can be painful, especially when they become cracked and start bleeding. The pain can make carrying out everyday activities very difficult, particularly when plaques are located on or around the joints, palms, or soles of the feet. Studies suggest that more than 40% of psoriasis patients experience frequent pain due to the condition6.

For more information on the symptom of pain

What kind of joint pain and swelling can psoriasis cause?

Joint pain and swelling are common symptoms of a condition called psoriatic arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune condition associated with psoriasis7. People with psoriasis have a much higher risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, especially if the person has a family member with psoriatic arthritis.

For more information on the symptoms of joint pain and swelling

What nail changes are linked to psoriasis?

Nail changes are very common, affecting at least half of people with plaque psoriasis and an even higher percentage of people with psoriatic arthritis8. These changes can include discoloration, pitting, ridging, splitting, crumbling, or separation of the nail from the nail bed.

For more information on the symptom of nail changes

Can psoriasis cause hair loss?

People with psoriasis plaques on the scalp may be worried about the possibility of hair loss. For people with mild or moderate psoriasis, hair loss is not very common9. When hair loss does occur, it usually happens in small patches after the removal of scale from plaques on the scalp. In most cases, this hair loss is only temporary and the hair grows back after the plaque heals.

For more information on the symptom of hair loss

Can psoriasis cause dandruff-like flaking and scaling?

People with scalp psoriasis may experience flaking from the scalp that can look very much like dandruff. Both can cause itching and flaking on the scalp; however, dandruff is caused by a fungal infection and scalp psoriasis is an autoimmune condition9. Dandruff-like flaking happens when the layer of silvery scale covering the top of a plaque flakes off in small pieces. A range of medicated shampoos and topical treatments is available for softening and treating the scalp plaques to reduce the amount of flaking.

For more information on the symptom of dandruff

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