What is it?

It is a common skin condition that at sometime and to a varying extent, affects well over a million-and-a-half people in the United Kingdom and Ireland and approximately eighty million people Worldwide.

Psoriasis is in simple terms only a vast acceleration of the usual replacement processes of the skin. Normally a skin cell matures in twenty one to forty days during its passage to the surface where a constant invisible shedding of dead cells, as scales takes place.

Psoriatic cells, however, are believed to turn over in two to three days and in such chaotic profusion that even live cells reach the surface and accumulate with the dead ones in visible layers.

What does it look like?

It appears as raised red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. It can occur on any part of the body, although knees, elbows and the scalp are usual sites. There is often accompanying irritation.

Is it catching?

Definitely not. It cannot be caught from other people, nor can it be transferred from one part of the body to another.

What causes it?

Basic causes are as yet unknown. Hereditary factors are thought to play an important part and much research is being carried out into this aspect.

It does however appear as if a genetic tendency is triggered off by such things as injury, throat infection, certain drugs and both physical and emotional stress.

Who gets it?

Psoriasis affects both sexes equally. It may appear for the first time at any age, although it is more likely to appear between 11 and 45.

How serious is it?

Psoriasis is known as a waxing and waning condition, and there may therefore be considerable variations in its intensity. There are also many clinical forms with skin involvement varying from a few psoriatic patches to, at its worst and very rarely, a widespread and serious eruption. Most sufferers, however, have only small patches which either get better spontaneously or need very little treatment.
The more severe forms that produce general involvement may demand intensive medical and nursing care.

Widespread ignorance as to the nature of psoriasis and the real or imagined reactions and attitudes of non-sufferers may also lead to a withdrawal from society and to feelings of isolation, depression and defensive shyness.

Is There A Cure

At the moment a permanent cure has not been found. Scientists know much about the cellular changes that occur and have identified many of the triggers. Many cases are controlled or improved by treatment of the visible effects rather than the unknown basic causes. These urgently need to be identified.

A great variety of treatments exist, and work continues to find more cosmetically acceptable ones. However, at least one-third of psoriatics lose the condition naturally for long periods of time or even entirely. Education about the condition has also been shown to be very beneficial.

It is exceedingly rare for babies to have Psoriasis, particularly when there is no history in the family. Rashes in the napkin area are sometimes thought to be Psoriasis, i.e. those provoked by a thrush infection. However, occasionally rashes appearing in a baby of a psoriatic family may be true Psoriasis, the child later developing typical lesions.

Psoriasis of the usual type rarely begins before the age of about four or five. The onset is often an outbreak of what is called Guttate Psoriasis, gutta being the Latin word for a drop. Guttate Psoriasis consists of many very small scaly patches affecting the trunk, limbs and sometimes the scalp. There may be a few rather larger patches, or such patches may in time develop. This type of rash often follows an infection, often one caused by streptococci in the throat; usually the rash clears well (in several weeks or months), but in some children patches will linger on indefinitely.

If a child has a tendency to tonsillitis, the rash may come back with each attack. Fortunately, serious involvement and the linked form of arthritis are exceedingly rare.

Research is beginning to unravel the genetic aspects of psoriasis. Eventually it will be possible to identify those who have a tendency to it before they actually develop signs of it. Since onset may be late in life and the actual rash minimal, many people will have died without being noted as sufferers.

Having one parent with Psoriasis will increase the chance of a child’s developing Psoriasis. If both parents have it, the chance will increase further. It is also probable that with such a background the psoriasis will tend to arise fairly early in life.

Sometimes it will be possible for these methods to be demonstrated, in combination with general guidance and support, in out-patient visits to a ward or a clinic.

The more ‘dramatic’ treatments for Psoriasis, such as methotrexate, acitretin and PUVA are not given to children except under very special circumstances.
All the usual immunisation procedures may safely be given, but it is worth remembering that a patch of psoriasis may come up at any site where the skin has been ‘injured’, for example following immunisation with BCG.

It is important to keep teachers informed of the child’s psoriasis at all stages of education.

The child should lead a life as normal as possible. However games and physical education may occasionally have to be missed when the lesions are at their worst.

Cotton underwear, sleepwear, etc., is more comfortable, especially in warm summer weather.

Care should be taken that the child does not suffer sunburn.

Tender loving care from family and friends will help the child cope with many of the problems connected with his or her psoriasis.

Information Courtesy of:
The PSORIASIS Association
Tel: (0604) 711129
Fax: (0604) 792894
Registered Charity No. 257414

Psoriatic arthritis

What is it?

Psoriatic arthritis is a particular pattern of arthritis seen in association with psoriasis. There may be inflammation of one of several joints either in the hands, feet or larger joints or the spine. Typically only one set of joints is involved, although in rare cases it can become widespread. About 80% of those affected develop inflammation in their joints after the onset of psoriasis, but in about 20% the arthritis may be present first before psoriasis. The joints affected may become tender, swollen and stiff. There is some evidence that inflammation of the tendons (tendonitis) without obvious inflammation of the joints (arthritis) may also be more common.

How does it differ from other forms of arthritis?

In some cases it may mimic other forms of chronic arthritis and indeed having psoriasis does not preclude individuals from developing other forms of arthritis. However typically the pattern of joints that becomes inflamed is characteristic of psoriatic arthritis. For example if an entire finger or toe becomes swollen rather than an individual joint, this is very suggestive of psoriatic arthritis. Other typical features may be involvement of the neck in those who suffer from the spinal form of arthritis or involvement of the very end joints of the fingers in those whose hands are involved.

Is there any particular age of onset?

It can come on at any age from early childhood and teenage years to later in life. However there is some evidence that in females both following childbirth and during menopause there may be certain hormone related changes that trigger the onset of arthritis.

Is it permanently disabling?

It is unlikely that psoriatic arthritis will lead to permanent disability. In general the outlook is better than for many other forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid disease.

Which joints are involved?

Potentially any joint in the body can be involved, but it is unheard of for all of them to become inflamed in any one individual. Most usually only one set of joints is involved, although there is a chance that other, but not all joints may become involved at a later stage.

Is it Psoriatic Arthritis?

In most cases the diagnosis can be established without too much difficulty by taking into account the pattern of joints involved. It may be slightly more difficult when the arthritis precedes development of psoriasis however.

Is there any division between the sexes?

Males and females are almost equally affected. However it would seem that males are more prone to developing arthritis of the spine and females more severe disease of other joints.

Nail Pitting

Psoriatic nail disease is present in about 80% of those with psoriatic arthritis in contrast to about 30% of those with psoriasis alone. Therefore in any individual with possible psoriatic arthritis, who has not yet developed psoriasis, examination of the nails is important.


There are many forms of treatment for psoriatic arthritis depending of course on the type and severity Treatment may range from rest and splintage for acutely inflamed joints, physiotherapy with mobilisation and exercises for less actively inflamed joints and medications that can reduce inflammation. Perhaps the most important part of treatment however is proper counselling and education.

How can I help myself

By learning about arthritis in order to know what to expect , to allay any fears that may be unfounded. Get the right balance of rest and exercise. Keep warm on cold days. Take medical advice for colds, influenza etc. Eat
a good balanced diet.

Is there any research?

Yes, there is research into psoriatic arthritis, although surprisingly not as much as some other forms of arthritis. However this may not be crucial as lessons learned from scientific advances in a number of other areas will help with understanding the cause of psoriatic arthritis and hopefully lead to better treatment.
The Association supported work at Guy’s Hospital a few years ago and in 1994 awarded a Grant of £16,975 for a Project in Bath, which is still proceeding.

Information Courtesy of:
The PSORIASIS Association
Tel: (0604) 711129
Fax: (0604) 792894
Registered Charity No. 257414