What Causes Plaque Psoriasis? A Detailed Discussion on Treatments and Management

Plaque psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects the skin, leading to the development of thick, scaly patches. These patches, known as plaques, are typically red and covered with silvery scales. Plaque psoriasis is not just a skin disorder; it has systemic manifestations and can significantly impact the quality of life of those affected. This article delves into the causes of plaque psoriasis and discusses current treatments, drawing on expert opinions and the new medical research to provide a comprehensive overview.

Understanding Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis, affecting about 80% to 90% of people with the condition. It typically appears on the scalp, knees, elbows, and lower back but can develop on any part of the body. The severity of the disease can vary significantly from one person to another.

Causes of Plaque Psoriasis

The exact cause of plaque psoriasis is still not fully understood, but it is known to be a multifactorial disease influenced by genetic and environmental factors. The immune system plays a crucial role, with T cells (a type of white blood cell) mistakenly attacking healthy skin cells.

Genetic Factors

Genetics is a significant factor in psoriasis. If one parent has psoriasis, the risk of a child developing the disease is about 10%, and this risk increases to approximately 50% if both parents are affected. Researchers have identified multiple genes associated with the disease, which influence the immune system’s functioning.

Environmental Triggers

Various environmental factors can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis, including:

  • Stress
  • Skin injury (the Koebner phenomenon)
  • Certain medications (e.g., lithium, beta-blockers)
  • Infections (particularly streptococcal infections)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Hormonal changes

Treatment of Plaque Psoriasis

Treatment for plaque psoriasis aims to reduce inflammation, slow the production of skin cells, and remove scales. Treatment options include:

Topical Treatments

These are applied directly to the skin and are the first-line treatment for mild to moderate psoriasis. Common topical treatments include:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D analogs (e.g., calcipotriene)
  • Topical retinoids
  • Coal tar
  • Anthralin
  • Moisturizers


This involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light under medical supervision and is effective for moderate to severe psoriasis.

Systemic Treatments

These are prescription medications taken orally or injected and are used for moderate to severe psoriasis or when topical therapy is ineffective. These include:

  • Methotrexate
  • Cyclosporine
  • Acitretin
  • Biologic drugs (e.g., adalimumab, etanercept)


Biologic drugs target specific parts of the immune system. They are used for patients who do not respond well to traditional systemic therapies.

Lifestyle Modifications

Managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can also help manage psoriasis symptoms.


While there is no cure for plaque psoriasis, effective management is possible. Understanding the causes and available treatments allows patients to better manage their condition with the help of healthcare providers. Ongoing research continues to shed light on this complex condition and may lead to more innovative treatments in the future.