What Is Plaque Psoriasis?

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Psoriasis is a chronic condition with no known cure. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of this condition.

Plaques are characterized as thick and pink covered with silvery white scales. The plaques have well-defined edges and may itch. These plaques can occur anywhere on the skin, with the most common spots on the scalp, elbow, knees, and lower back.

A close up of a plaque from psoriasis

Goh Keng Cheong / Getty Images

This article will discuss the signs and symptoms of plaque psoriasis, its causes, and treatments. It will also cover how someone can identify their psoriasis triggers to prevent a flare-up.

Signs and Symptoms of Plaque Psoriasis

The signs and symptoms of plaque psoriasis will vary from person to person based on the severity of the condition. Many people will find that they have the following symptoms:

Polygonal plaque psoriasis on a person's arm and wrist area

Reproduced with permission from © DermNet New Zealand www.dermnetnz.org 2023.

  • Plaques that are thick and pink covered with silvery white scales
  • Plaques that show up symmetrically on the body (e.g., both elbows or both knees)
  • Itching at the plaque site
  • Burning or pain at the plaque site
  • Pinpoint bleeding if a skin scale is removed (Auspitz sign)
  • Fissures along plaques found on the palms, soles, or on any thick plaques

What Are Plaques?

Plaques are areas of raised, red skin that are covered in white or silver skin scales. These plaques are from 1 centimeter up to several centimeters large and usually appear symmetrically on the body. Plaques can itch and be painful, especially when they develop cracks or fissures.

Main Causes of Plaque Psoriasis

Experts don't know the exact cause of psoriasis, but they know that genes and the immune system play a role.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to produce too many skin cells. When these skin cells accumulate in one area, they develop plaques.

Psoriasis can be hereditary. Specific genes make it more likely for someone to develop the condition. However, some people who get psoriasis do not have those genes. In other cases, people with psoriasis genes may never develop psoriasis.

What Is the Difference Between Psoriasis and Plaque Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a term for an autoimmune condition that causes skin cells to multiply too quickly. There are several types of psoriasis, and plaque psoriasis is the most common. Of the people who have psoriasis, 80–90% have plaque psoriasis.

What Does Plaque Psoriasis Look Like?

Plaque psoriasis looks like red, raised skin with dry white skin either entirely or partially covering it. The rash will have a well-defined border and can itch and burn. Plaque psoriasis can be found anywhere on the body but is more common on the scalp, knees, and elbows.

Plaques can be of different sizes and come together to form larger ones.

People with plaque psoriasis go through periods when the rash gets better and goes away, then returns and gets worse.

Determining Severity and Diagnosing Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is diagnosed based on clinical appearance, history, and, if necessary, a skin biopsy.

A healthcare provider will examine the skin lesions and, in many cases, determine if the patient has plaque psoriasis. If uncertain, the healthcare provider can take a small skin sample and send it to a lab for a firm diagnosis.

Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI)

The Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) is a scale for assessing and grading the severity of psoriasis and the response to treatment.

The scale uses a score from 0–72. Scores indicate the following severity levels:

  • None to mild: 0–4
  • Moderate: 5–10
  • Severe: greater than 10

The PASI is calculated based on the quantity of the body affected, redness, scaling, and lesion thickness.

The PASI does have its limitations. It does not consider how psoriasis affects a person's quality of life.

Plaque Psoriasis Flare-Ups and Triggers

A psoriasis trigger is something that causes psoriasis to worsen. These periods of worsening psoriasis are called flare-ups. Common psoriasis triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Skin injury
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Infection
  • Cold, dry weather
  • Shaving
  • Medications

Not everyone with psoriasis will have the same triggers. People must find their triggers and work to avoid them to prevent flare-ups.

How Diet Impacts Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes excess inflammation within the body. There is no specific psoriasis diet, but some studies have shown that diet can improve psoriasis in some people.

Celiac disease tends to be more common in people with psoriasis. People with psoriasis who are also sensitive to gluten may find symptom relief with a gluten-free diet.

A 2018 review from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that those who carry excess weight or people with obesity should seek weight reduction by consuming fewer calories. The journal also states that there is minimal evidence to promote any specific dietary pattern or specific foods or nutrients to reduce psoriasis.

Plaque Psoriasis Treatment

Plaque psoriasis treatment can require both over-the-counter therapies and prescriptions. Several treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter: Creams and moisturizers treat dry skin and itchiness.
  • Prescription topical creams: A common topical corticosteroid cream can treat plaque psoriasis.
  • Non-biologics: These medications suppress the immune system to reduce symptoms.
  • Biologics: Medications that suppress the immune system and are typically given as a shot or intravenously.
  • Phototherapy: Light therapy takes place in a healthcare provider's office to reduce symptoms.

Preparing for a Psoriasis Appointment

When preparing for a psoriasis appointment, specific information should be readily available.

Be prepared to give a complete health history and any family history of psoriasis. Provide a list of current medications and vitamins. If you believe you know what is triggering the psoriasis plaques, be sure to pass along that information as well.

Does Plaque Psoriasis Ever Go Away?

Psoriasis does not go away. There is no known cure for it. However, treatment can be very successful at dramatically minimizing or eliminating symptoms. Work with a healthcare provider to find the right treatment plan to obtain the best results.

Self-Care and Prevention

Psoriasis self-care will look different for each person. This may include managing triggers like stress with relaxation or meditation.

Though psoriasis can't be prevented, reducing exposure to triggers, taking any prescribed medications, and following a healthy diet can reduce the condition's incidence.


Plaque psoriasis is a type of psoriasis. It is an autoimmune condition that causes raised, red skin lesions covered with white or silver dry skin scales. It is an autoimmune condition that does not have a cure. Treatment varies from person to person but typically involves a prescription medication or topical cream. Avoiding things that cause psoriasis to worsen and following a healthcare provider's treatment plan can help reduce the symptoms of psoriasis.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. AJMC. Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis overview.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis: causes.

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  5. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. Validity of outcome measures.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Are triggers causing your psoriasis flare-ups?

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Patty Weasler

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Weasler is a Wisconsin-based registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care.