Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that can present in many ways. Different types of psoriasis can vary in severity, location, and form.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that affects around 3.2% of the United States population.

There are a number of different types of psoriasis, which can vary in their severity, location on the body, and physical appearance. Fortunately, there are many treatments available that can help.

In this article, we take a look at different types of psoriasis and how they can affect people.

Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes skin cells to form too quickly. Because these grow faster than the body can shed existing skin cells, thick, scaly patches form.

On lighter skin tones, psoriasis usually appears as pink or red patches with silvery-white scales. On darker skin, psoriasis is more likely to appear as purple patches with gray scales or as a dark brown color.

Learn more about psoriasis on black skin.

There are several types of psoriasis. Most types of psoriasis tend to be mild to moderate. However, some types of psoriasis can be severe.

Types of the condition include:

People with psoriasis may initially only develop one type of psoriasis, but can develop another type at a later point in time.

While a person’s symptoms will vary with the type of psoriasis they have, most people with psoriasis will experience some combination of:

  • itchy skin
  • burning, sore, or painful areas on the skin
  • patches of thick skin with visible scales
  • small scaly spots
  • swollen or stiff joints

Psoriasis is often a lifelong condition, and symptoms tend to be cyclical. This means that they may increase in intensity at certain periods and lessen at others. People refer to these periods of heightened symptoms as flares.

Flares can vary in severity and duration.

Plaque psoriasis, also known as psoriasis vulgaris, causes areas of plaque buildup on the skin and is the most common form of psoriasis. Around 80-90% of people with psoriasis develop plaque psoriasis.

Plaque is a thickened area of skin. On lighter skin types, it often has a white or silvery, scaled appearance, and on darker skin types it may appear as purple patches with gray scales.

Plaque psoriasis tends to be mild to moderate but can be severe. Typically, mild plaque psoriasis covers less than 3% of the body, moderate plaque psoriasis 3-10%, and severe cases cover 10% or more.


Symptoms of plaque psoriasis vary from person to person. These symptoms can include:

  • areas of dry skin lesions covered with silvery scales
  • plaques that itch or burn
  • problems that affect the nails

Areas of plaque may appear anywhere on the body but are most common on the knees and elbows.


Treatment of mild or moderate plaque psoriasis will vary depending on a person’s individual symptoms. However, treatment will typically include the application of topical ointments to affected areas, and in some cases exposing the skin to ultraviolet light.

Scalp psoriasis typically occurs on a person’s scalp. However, it can also appear on the forehead, back of the head, down the neck, and behind the ears.

Scalp psoriasis is common among people with psoriasis. In the United States, approximately 45-56% of people living with psoriasis have scalp psoriasis.

A person with scalp psoriasis can have psoriasis on other parts of their body at the same time.


Scalp psoriasis shares many symptoms with plaque psoriasis, but may also result in:

  • patches of thick skin on the scalp
  • dandruff-like flakes on the scalp
  • itching and bleeding scalp
  • a dry scalp
  • temporary hair loss during flares


Treatment for scalp psoriasis often involves more than one method at a time. As with plaque psoriasis, a doctor will tailor a treatment program to a patients’ needs.

Treatment options for scalp psoriasis include:

  • medicated shampoos and ointments
  • UV light therapy
  • injections
  • scalp therapy

Learn more about the best shampoos for psoriasis here.

Guttate psoriasis is characterized by red, purple, or dark dots and spots spread throughout the skin. The dots and spots are not as thick as plaques in plaque psoriasis.

This type of psoriasis often starts in childhood or young adulthood and appears after an infection.


Guttate psoriasis typically causes spots to appear on the legs, arm, and torso. However, these may also appear on the face, scalp, and ears.

In severe cases of guttate psoriasis, there may be hundreds of these spots, and they may cover the majority of an affected area.


Doctors will typically recommend topical creams and ointments as the first step for treating guttate psoriasis. These treatments may help reduce swelling and alleviate itching.

As the condition can appear following infections such as strep throat, a doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat the infection alongside addressing the psoriasis symptoms. In some cases, they may also suggest a patient undergo light therapy.

Inverse psoriasis appears as patches of discoloration that are most often found in the folds of the skin, such as in the armpits and groin. People with inverse psoriasis often have other forms of psoriasis elsewhere on their bodies.


On white skin, inverse psoriasis presents as bright red or pink marks. On black or brown skin it may appear as red, purple, or darker than the surrounding area.

Areas of the body that are most likely to be affected by inverse psoriasis include:

  • armpits
  • groin
  • under the breasts
  • behind the knee


The areas of the body that are most often affected by inverse psoriasis tend to have thinner skin than other areas. This can make treating this type of psoriasis more difficult.

A doctor will typically recommend topical steroid ointments to reduce inflammation. As skin folds are common sites of yeast infection, they may also suggest a person take anti-yeast and anti-fungal treatments as well.

Pustular psoriasis is a severe, rare type of psoriasis. It causes widespread inflammation of the skin and white or yellow blisters that contain pus.


Pustular psoriasis blisters can be limited to one area of the body or appear more generally. Once the blisters have gone away, the skin may become scaly.

A person with pustular psoriasis may also experience:

A specific kind of pustular psoriasis called palmoplantar pustulosis causes blisters to form on the palms and soles of the feet. These blisters form in a studded pattern. Over time, the blisters turn brown and become crusty.


Due to the rarity of the condition, there is a lack of evidence-based treatment guidelines. As a result, medical professionals may recommend a combination of topical ointments, oral medications, and therapies.

They may also cycle between medications and therapies to find the most effective option and reduce the risk of side effects.

A person with mild pustular psoriasis may be able to treat the condition with prescription topical ointments. However, those with more extensive symptoms may require hospital treatment.

While most forms of psoriasis tend to be mild or moderate, erythrodermic psoriasis is severe and can be a life-threatening medical emergency.

This type of inflammatory psoriasis covers 80-90% of the body. It causes an extremely painful, peeling rash that looks like a burn.

Erythrodermic psoriasis is a rare condition and affects 1-2.25% of people with psoriasis.


Unlike symptoms of the types of mild psoriasis, symptoms of erythrodermic psoriasis tend to be serious. They may include:

  • widespread area of inflamed, discolored skin
  • skin that peels off in sheets
  • severe itching, pain, or burning
  • faster heart rate
  • fever or lower body temperature
  • swelling in feet or ankles

People who have erythrodermic psoriasis are prone to infection. They may also experience other serious problems, including heart failure and pneumonia.


People with erythrodermic psoriasis are often hospitalized and may require emergency treatment. This may include fluid replacement and systemic medications, which affect the whole body.

Depending on the severity of the condition, a medical professional may recommend oral retinoids, which are medicines derived from Vitamin A that can slow skin cell growth and reduce swelling, and immunosuppressive drugs, which reduce the body’s immune system response.

Biologic therapy is also a potential course of treatment. Biologics target cytokines, which are signaling molecules that assist in the movement of cells to sites of inflammation. By suppressing or inhibiting these signals, biologics can reduce the severity of inflammation from erythrodermic psoriasis.

In mild cases, focused treatment for the symptoms of erythrodermic psoriasis may include topical steroid creams and ointments, wet dressings, and oatmeal baths.

Most types of psoriasis tend to be of mild to moderate severity. This exception is erythrodermic psoriasis, which can be a life-threatening medical emergency.

Psoriasis varies in its appearance and symptoms, but most treatment approaches are similar. Typically people with mild psoriasis can manage their symptoms using topical treatments, according to treatment guidelines.

However, if a person has moderate to severe symptoms a doctor may prescribe new biologic therapies. These can help treat the underlying cause of skin changes and may reduce the number of flares and severity of symptoms.

People who suspect that they have psoriasis should consult their doctor before beginning treatment. People with symptoms of erythrodermic psoriasis should seek immediate medical attention.