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Like the word gingivitis in the dental word, the word psoriasis is known to most people from the world of advertising. And as Listerine was the advertiser enlightening the public to the word gingivitis, Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo has brought psoriasis into the public vocabulary. Psoriasis is a skin condition that is known more for its potential embarrassment of the sufferer rather than pain or discomfort. At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we have different ways to treat psoriasis.

What is it?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that shows itself as patches of red, silvery scales on the skin. When behaving normally, skin grows at a consistent, gradual rate. Old skin cells are typically shed every four weeks. But when a person has psoriasis, they have abnormal lymphocytes that cause this skin process to happen at an accelerated rate, resulting in thick patches with dry flakes. It is usually shows itself on the elbows, scalp, hands, lower back, and knees. It is not contagious. Psoriasis affects roughly 2% of Americans.

Psoriasis is very common in adults, but many people don’t even know they have it because it may just show itself in a little patch here or there. But for others, severe psoriasis can leave red, thick scaly skin across much of their body. Obviously, in these cases, sufferers avoid activities such as swimming that require exposing areas of skin. That’s easy to do in a Portland winter, but no so easy in our awesome summers and falls.

What’s the cause of psoriasis?

Psoriasis is considered to be an incurable, chronic skin condition. While its exact cause is unknown, it’s thought to be similar to allergies. It is believed that an overreaction in the immune system causes the skin to react with the rapid cell turnover that leads to inflamed, flaky skin. There are possibly genetic and environmental factors involved, as well.

Cold, dry weather tends to make psoriasis reappear or worsen, which obviously points to the indoor heating and dark days of winter. Also, stress, infections, and certain medications can exacerbate psoriasis.


At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, we treat psoriasis differently for each patient. Topical treatment is our first option:

  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D analogs
  • Coal tar
  • Anthralin
  • Salicylic acid
  • Lubricants
  • Bath solutions

Light therapy — The controlled delivery of synthetic UV light may be effective in the treatment of psoriasis. Depending on the case, this may involve either ultraviolet B phototherapy or ultraviolet A phototherapy.

Systemic treatment — In severe cases of psoriasis, medicines taken internally can be prescribed. These can include methotrexate, retinoids, cyclosporine, and biologic response modifiers.

You don’t have to put up with psoriasis. Call us at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, (503) 297-3440, to make an appointment.