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Psoriasis: Diagnosis and treatment

Wondering if you have psoriasis? A board-certified dermatologist can tell you. Dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases that affect the skin, hair, and nails. 

If you have psoriasis, your dermatologist can create a treatment plan that meets your individual needs. This type of treatment plan has many benefits. It can relieve symptoms like itch. It can help you see clearer (or clear) skin. It can also prevent psoriasis from worsening.

How do dermatologists diagnose psoriasis?

To diagnose psoriasis, a dermatologist will examine your skin, nails, and scalp for signs of this condition. Your dermatologist will also ask if you have any: 

  • Symptoms, such as itchy skin

  • Joint problems, such as pain and swelling or stiffness when you wake up

  • Blood relatives who have psoriasis

  • Recent changes in your life, such as an illness or increased stress

Sometimes, a dermatologist also removes a bit of skin. By looking at the removed skin under a microscope, a doctor can confirm whether you have psoriasis. 

Understanding psoriasis is key

“The most powerful weapon in the battle against any disease is understanding it.” 

Kendra Gail Bergstrom, MD
Alexa Boer Kimball, MD, MPH
100 Questions and Answers about Psoriasis

physician speaking to teen

How do dermatologists treat psoriasis?

If you have psoriasis, a dermatologist can create a treatment plan to meet your individual needs. To create this plan, your dermatologist will consider the: 

  • Type(s) of psoriasis you have

  • Places psoriasis appears on your body

  • Severity of the psoriasis

  • Impact psoriasis has on your life

  • Other medical conditions you have

Your treatment plan may include medication you apply to your skin, advice to help you care for your skin, and tips to help prevent flare-ups. To control psoriasis, some people also need light treatments or medication that works throughout the body. 

You can find out about the different treatments for psoriasis at: Medications and light treatments for psoriasis

Your dermatologist will want to see you for follow-up appointments. These appointments can be very helpful because your dermatologist can: 

  • Find out how well the treatment plan is working for you

  • Modify your treatment plan if necessary

  • Watch for signs of psoriatic arthritis, a disease that you want to catch early

  • Assess your risk of developing other diseases that are more common in people with psoriasis

  • Help you set realistic expectations for managing your psoriasis

A dermatologist can also answer questions you have about treating psoriasis. Common questions that patients ask include:

What is the outcome for someone who has psoriasis?

Advances in research have led to safer and more effective treatments for psoriasis. It’s important to understand that treatment can control psoriasis, but it cannot cure psoriasis. 

Because psoriasis cannot be cured, most people live with this condition for the rest of their lives. Knowledge is the key to living well with psoriasis.

You’ll find insider advice that dermatologists give their patients to help them manage psoriasis at: Psoriasis: Tips for managing

Related AAD resources

Getty Images

Bergstrom KG and Kimball AB. 100 questions and answers about psoriasis. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2005.

Gottlieb A, Korman NJ, et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Section 2. Psoriatic arthritis: Overview and guidelines of care for treatment with an emphasis on the biologics.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2008; 58:851-64.

Gudjonsson JE, Elder JT. “Psoraisis.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine(seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 169-93. 

Menter A, Korman NJ, et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Section 6. Guidelines of care for the treatment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis: Case-based presentations and evidence-based conclusions.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2011; 65:137-74.

van de Kerkhof PCM, Schalkwijk J. “Psoriasis.” In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (second edition). Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:115-34.

Medical reviewers Meet the board-certified dermatologists who reviewed this content. Each has conducted research that gives us a better understanding of psoriasis.