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Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that can cause some concern because some people believe it is contagious. But it is NOT contagious and can be treated.

Psoriasis is a common skin disorder that affects about seven million people in the United States.  People with psoriasis have inherited genes that create an overactive immune system, which causes skin lesions. It is not an infection and it’s not contagious, says Dr. Stephen Stone, professor of dermatology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

“... the most common symptom of psoriasis is itching.  These red scaly plaques that appear on the body tend to itch.  In some patients, they sting and burn, but the main feature of the disease is this visible rash on the skin.  ... The red plaque with the white scale on it.  It can involve the scalp and that can be consistent of very itchy, scaly red scalp.”

Dr. Stone says environmental factors such as stress, trauma and sunburns can cause psoriasis flare-ups.  He adds that although there is not a cure for the condition, there are some very good treatments available.

“... there are some topical medications.  That’s tropicals which you put on the skin and they range from prescription strength tars to modified tars to cortisone and cortisone derivatives.   There’s also a vitamin D type of cream or ointment that can be used in psoriasis.  And then there’s one ointment that contains both the vitamin D product and the cortisone product.”

Dr. Stone says individuals with moderate to severe psoriasis may need ultraviolet light treatments, internal medications or treatments known as biologics which are injectable.  Anyone with psoriasis symptoms should see their primary care physician, who may refer the individual to a dermatologist for further evaluation and possible treatment.

Ruth Slottag