Psoriasis treatments and self-care to improve your skin health

September 1, 2023 Swedish Health Team


In this article: 

  • Psoriasis causes flaking and itchy, red patches of skin in different areas of your body. 

  • Psoriasis can also cause complications such as arthritis or increased risk for heart disease. 

  • A Swedish dermatology expert can help you manage your psoriasis with creams, pills or other advanced treatments. 

If you experience the scaly red rashes of psoriasis, you aren’t alone. More than 7.5 million adults in the United States experience psoriasis — and many of them feel self-conscious or even depressed about the way the condition affects their skin. Learning more about your condition and how you can treat it can help you regain your confidence and boost your self-esteem.  

What is psoriasis? 

Psoriasis is a non-contagious skin condition that occurs when your immune system causes your skin to grow faster. While normally skins cells grow and shed in about a month’s time, people with psoriasis may have itchy patches of skin that grow in just three to four days.  

“Classic plaque psoriasis are reddish plaques of skin with overlying scaling,” says Young Choi, M.D., dermatologist at Swedish Dermatology. “The scaling can be flaky and shed or be picked off the skin.” 

Though psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body. These patches might feel itchy or burn—or may not cause any discomfort at all, says Dr. Choi.  Psoriasis most commonly appears on the: 

  • Scalp 
  • Elbows 
  • Knees 
  • Lower back 
  • Underarms 

Complications of psoriasis 

While skin patches can be uncomfortable and affect quality of life, psoriasis can also have more serious complications. One in three people with psoriasis develops pain, stiffness and inflammation in their joints called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis most often affects the small joints in the fingers, toes, hands and wrists. Without treatment, it can become worse over time, cause permanent joint damage and even deformed joints. Psoriasis may also be linked to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.  

Psoriasis treatment options 

While there is no cure for psoriasis, a dermatologist can help you find good, effective treatment options. The right treatment for you depends on how severe your psoriasis is and if it is causing arthritis.  

“Usually some form of treatment is needed to manage a psoriasis flare-up,” says Dr. Choi. “Managing your stress, staying well-hydrated, and maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise are important factors in the management of psoriasis.” 

In addition to a healthy lifestyle, your doctor may recommend these treatment options: 

Treatments for psoriasis skin issues 

  • Salicylic acid treatments. Skin care products that contain salicylic acid can remove flaking and scaly skin. You can find these products in stores or your doctor can write you a prescription for stronger products. 
  • Topical steroids. Prescription steroids can help calm down your immune system. These creams or ointments can help clear up skin patches and improve the appearance of your skin.  
  • Phototherapy. Phototherapy uses specialized light to encourage healing in your skin.  
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors. Calcineurin inhibitor creams help reduce scaliness and redness in your skin. 
  • Vitamin D analogues. These creams contain a synthetic form of vitamin D that helps slow down skin growth.  
  • Retinoids. These powerful gels and creams can improve the appearance of your skin. 

All of these treatments may cause skin irritation and/or sensitivity to light. Your doctor can help you find the right cream for your skin. 

Treatments for skin issues and psoriatic arthritis  

  • Steroids. If you have persistent skin patches in multiple areas that won’t go away, your doctor might inject steroids directly into the areas for more powerful relief. 
  • Retinoids. Retinoid pills can help slow skin growth throughout your body, treating many patches of psoriasis at once. 
  • Injectable biologic medications. Biologic medicines like Enbrel, Humira and Stelara work by changing your immune system. They can be extremely effective at stopping the cycle of psoriasis flare-ups. These shots can also help relieve psoriatic arthritis.  

These treatments can have side effects and risks. Your doctor can explain the risks and benefits of these medicines, so you feel comfortable with your treatment. 

Self-care for psoriasis: How to manage symptoms at home 

Taking care of your overall health is the best way to reduce the number of psoriasis flare-ups you have. You can improve your psoriasis with these healthy habits: 

  • Reduce stress. Increased or uncontrolled stress can cause flare-ups. 
  • Protect your skin. Avoid sunburn, scrapes and bug bites that could lead to psoriasis in the affected area. 
  • Don’t smoke or vape. In addition to the risk of lung disease, smoking and vaping can make psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis worse. 
  • Eat healthfully. Be sure you are eating a well-rounded diet. 
  • See your primary care provider regularly. They can help you keep an eye on your joint and heart health. 

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition, but it doesn’t have to affect your quality of life. By working with your primary care provider and dermatologist, you can find ways to improve your psoriasis and your life. 

Learn more and find a provider 

If you are looking for a dermatologist to help manage your psoriasis, you can find one who’s right for you in our provider directory.  

With Swedish Virtual Care, you can connect face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your family and health history. You can also find a primary care provider by searching our provider directory

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council

Related resources 

Psoriasis: This is what you need to know and why 

Find ways to relieve the discomfort of painful joints 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions. 

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