Plaque Psoriasis

Image of Plaque PsoriasisPlaque psoriasis is the most common form of the disease. 80-90 percent of people with psoriasis experience plaque psoriasis. On Caucasian skin, psoriasis typically appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells or scale. On skin of color, the discoloration is darker and thicker, more of a purple or grayish color or darker brown.

These patches or plaques most often appear on the scalp, knees, elbows and lower back. They range from coin-size to palm-size. They are often itchy and painful, and they can crack and bleed.


If you develop a rash that doesn't go away with an over-the-counter medication, you should consider contacting your doctor. Your doctor will look for raised, red scales with well-defined edges, and will consider how the rash responds to medication before making a diagnosis. Plaque psoriasis is most often found on the outside of knees and elbows, the scalp, the lower back, the face, the palms and soles of feet. When biopsied, psoriasis skin looks thicker and inflamed when compared with eczema.


Plaque psoriasis in skin of color. Treatments listed below may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. The first choice of treatment usually depends on disease severity.

  • Topical Treatments come with and without steroids. Prescription topicals slow down skin cell growth and reduce inflammation.
  • Phototherapy involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light on a regular basis and under medical supervision. Treatments are done in a health care provider's office or at home with a phototherapy unit.
  • Systemic medications are prescription drugs that work throughout the body. They are used for individuals with psoriatic arthritis and those with moderate to severe psoriasis whose symptoms are unresponsive to other treatments. Systemic medications are taken orally, by injection or infusion, and include biologics.

Keep in mind that no single psoriasis treatment works for everyone. It’s important to talk with your health care provider about your personal treatment preferences and concerns. Talking about how often you need to use treatments (daily, weekly, monthly etc.), how they are taken (directly on the skin, taking a pill, IV drip, injection), and any side effects can help you and your health care provider create a treatment plan that works well for your psoriatic disease and fits well in your life.

Learn how NPF is leading the charge toward more effective treatments and, someday, a cure.

Last updated on by the National Psoriasis Foundation