plaque psoriasis causes

Uncovering the Factors Contributing to Plaque Psoriasis

Beyond Skin Deep

Plaque psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes thick, scaly patches called plaques on your skin. It can appear as raised and inflamed and is often itchy and painful. Plaque psoriasis is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States. About 80 to 90% of people living with psoriasis experience plaque psoriasis. Despite its frequency, however, many people might not know the common causes and signs of plaque psoriasis.

This article will detail the important information you should know if dealing with plaque psoriasis or if you suspect you might have it.

Why Does Plaque Psoriasis Happen?

The cause of psoriasis isn't fully understood but is being heavily studied. Some experts believe it to be an immune system problem where infection-fighting cells attack healthy skin cells by mistake. While certain factors might play a hand in triggering plaque psoriasis, experts believe that both genetics and environmental factors play a role in getting it.


Research shows that psoriasis can run in the family. Studies show that 20% of people with psoriasis report having a relative with psoriasis, and that if both your parents have psoriasis, you have about a 50% chance of getting it.


As plaque psoriasis deals with your immune system, certain factors can trigger it or make it worse. Some of the most common triggers for plaque psoriasis include certain medications; starting or stopping medicines; infections; injury to the skin; stress; tobacco or alcohol use; and diet.

Signs and Symptoms

There are lots of different kinds of psoriasis, such as nail psoriasis, guttate psoriasis and pustular psoriasis, to name a few. That said, plaque psoriasis is especially distinguishable due to the presence of plaques, or thick, scaly patches of skin. The patches may differ in color depending on your skin tone, but most patches look either red, brown, purple, or gray and can be covered with a white or silvery layer. Plaques tend to show up symmetrically on both sides of your body– so if they show up on one knee, they will appear on the other one as well, for example.

Common symptoms include pain, cracking skin, bleeding, burning and stinging.


While plaque psoriasis can’t be cured, the symptoms can be managed and treated. Studies find that plaque psoriasis typically affects people in waves, with cycles of flare-ups. The goal of treatment is to minimize the frequency and severity of flare-ups.

Treatment options include:

Topical Medications

Depending on the severity of your plaque psoriasis, your doctor will most likely prescribe you a medicinal cream first to put directly onto your skin. This can help with inflammation or slow the growth of skin cells. There are also different over-the-counter creams you can try, such as salicylic acid and coal tar.

Light Therapy

If your plaque psoriasis is more widespread, your doctor may treat it with light therapy, or phototherapy. This involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light regularly and under medical supervision. This works by penetrating the skin and slowing the growth of affected skin cells. Treatments can be done in a health care provider's office, a clinic, or at home with a phototherapy unit. A 2017 study showed that around 75% of people who used some form of phototherapy to treat their psoriasis found that it cleared their psoriasis or led to minimal symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes and Diet

Just as some foods trigger inflammation, others can help combat inflammation. Some of the best foods to implement into your diet if you’re struggling with plaque psoriasis include fish; lean protein or plant-based proteins; fruits and vegetables; legumes (beans and lentils); nuts and seeds; olive oil; small amounts of low-fat dairy; and whole grains.

Some studies also suggest that weight and BMI can play a part in exacerbating symptoms of plaque psoriasis. In addition to making changes to your diet, consider adding more activity and exercise to your daily life. You should also get plenty of sleep and do your best to reduce stress in your life.

When to See a Doctor

If you suspect that you may have psoriasis, see your healthcare provider. You should also seek medical care if your condition worsens or if: it becomes severe or widespread; it causes you severe discomfort and pain; it causes you concern about the appearance of your skin; or if it doesn't improve with treatment.

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