Last updated: May 14, 2009
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin and can show up anywhere on the body. Some people live with mild cases of the condition, with less than 10% of their body affected, while others can have moderate or severe psoriasis covering from 20% to 80% of their bodies and cropping up in particularly difficult places.

The most common places to find the thick, red patches of plaque psoriasis (the most common type), are on the elbows, knees, and scalp. But it can crop up on the trunk, face, palms, or genitals, or in the folds of breasts or armpits.

A Healthy Diet for Psoriasis?
Losing weight may help  Read more
“Its really debilitating when it appears on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands,” says Bruce Bebo, PhD, the director of research and medical programs for the National Psoriasis Foundation. “If it affects the groin and the genital area—thats very uncomfortable.”

Tailoring your treatment
Bebo says the approach to treatment differs based on “variables that include the type and severity of the psoriasis, the amount of body surface covered, and the location of the plaques on the body (psoriasis on the face is treated differently than on the arms and legs, for instance).”

Patients with only a few plaques and a small amount of skin to treat often will do well with topical medications such as a “a mild- to moderate-strength topical steroid,” says Bebo. But in sensitive locations such as the face and genitals, “alternatives to steroids are used. These include topical retinoids, vitamin D derivatives, and immunosuppressive agents.”

Chase Morris, a 7-year-old from Poca, W. Va., has several types of psoriasis dotting his trunk, scalp, eyebrows, and even infiltrating some of his skin folds. After finding a good physician and establishing a treatment plan, most of his psoriasis is currently in remission. “It sounds like a lot, but if you were to see him you may not notice unless you look closely at his scalp and eyebrows,” says his mother, Jennifer Morris.

“I dont know what Chases quality of life would be like today had we not found Dr. Cordoro,” says Morris, speaking of Chases doctor, who specializes in pediatric dermatology. “She taught me to do research and bring that new knowledge with me to appointments.” (For help finding the treatment you deserve, visit 4 Ways to Get the Best Care for Your Psoriasis.)

Improving your quality of life
“Psoriasis can be very psychologically, emotionally, and physically debilitating,” says Chases former physician, Kelly M. Cordoro, MD, now an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco.

“I have a 43-year-old woman who has psoriasis covering most of her body. She is embarrassed to go to her childrens school events and to PTA meetings because shes flaking on her arms, hands, scalp, and ears.”

With proper treatment, however, your quality of life can be improved greatly. Often, someone living with psoriasis has to consult several doctors and research different treatment options before finding the right kind of therapy for their specific condition. But with the right treatment and good support you can live a more comfortable life with psoriasis.