How Many People Have Psoriasis?

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes itchy, red patches on the skin that are covered with whitish scales, called plaques. They tend to develop on the elbows, scalp, back, face, feet, knees, and palms.

Psoriasis develops when your immune system becomes overactive, making too many skin cells. The exact cause is unclear, but the condition can run in families.

This article reviews how common psoriasis is, how it's diagnosed, and potential complications.

Person scratching psoriasis on hand

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How Many People Have Psoriasis?

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, more than 8 million people in the United States have psoriasis. About 2%–3% of the world's population has it. This equals 125 million people.

Experts consider psoriasis to be a common skin condition, affecting all races, but it is most prevalent among White people.

Where Is Psoriasis Most Common?

Psoriasis appears to be most common in the northern countries of Europe. Norway has the highest number of people with psoriasis, and East Asia has the lowest.

The United States is among the countries with a higher prevalence of psoriasis. There is evidence that psoriasis is on the rise around the world.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Experts don't know exactly what causes psoriasis. It is an autoimmune condition, in which the immune system—which typically defends the body from infection—overreacts, causing certain white blood cells to become overactive. As a result, these cells cause inflammation, and they divide more quickly than usual and develop abnormally.

Psoriasis tends to run in families, but it can occur in people who have no relatives with psoriasis. The rashes and scaling tend to come in flares (times when symptoms worsen), which can be triggered by stress, cold or dry weather, injury, and infection, among other factors.

Risk Factors for Psoriasis

Risk factors for psoriasis include obesity, stress, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure. Environmental or behavioral risk factors include smoking, pollution, and alcohol.

How Is Psoriasis Diagnosed?

A dermatologist (skin specialist) can usually diagnose psoriasis by looking at your skin and asking you about your symptoms.

Psoriasis symptoms can be similar to eczema (atopic dermatitis), so your dermatologist or other healthcare provider may order a laboratory test to analyze a small sample of your skin to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for psoriasis and eczema differs, so it's important to have an accurate diagnosis.

At What Age Does Psoriasis Develop?

Psoriasis can develop at any age, but it most commonly arises in people between the ages of 15 and 25.

What Is the Life Expectancy for People with Psoriasis?

Mild psoriasis does not seem to affect life expectancy. However, people with severe psoriasis may have a somewhat shorter life span by about three or four years due to complications. But each case is different, and statistics don't represent individual outcomes.

People with psoriasis may be more likely to develop some serious health conditions, which can affect longevity. These include heart disease, kidney disease, dementia, and infection.

Complications of Psoriasis

As many as 30% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, which can damage the joints over time. Other complications include eye infections, inflammation, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you see red patches that are covered with white flaky skin that itch or feel sore, contact a dermatologist or healthcare provider, who can examine you for psoriasis. If you have dark skin, the areas may look more purple, gray, or darker brown.

Psoriasis can become more severe over time or lead to psoriatic arthritis, which should be treated to minimize any damage to your joints.

Your provider can also talk to you about topical treatments or other medications or injections to alleviate the itching and rashes, and help you learn to identify triggers so you can minimize psoriasis flares.

Summary

Psoriasis is a skin condition caused by an immune system overreaction that leads to itchy, sore patches on the skin that are covered in gray or white scales. It affects about 8 million people in the United States and 2%–3% of the population globally.

Psoriasis can be mild or severe. Severe psoriasis is linked with some serious health conditions, such as heart disease and psoriatic arthritis. If you think you may have psoriasis, see a dermatologist.

A Word From Verywell

People with psoriasis often feel self-conscious about their skin. But psoriasis is, in fact, fairly common, so you're not alone. Psoriasis treatments have improved over time, and your provider can help get your psoriasis under control or in remission.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is psoriasis so common?

    No one knows why psoriasis is as common as it is, but some studies show it is on the rise. It may be that it's being diagnosed more often and accurately due to better access to health care. Or it can be related to environmental or lifestyle factors that trigger psoriasis.

  • Can psoriasis go away over time?

    Psoriasis is considered a chronic condition, but with treatment, some people experience remission and have no symptoms for months or years at a time. It may also go into remission on its own.

  • Can psoriasis shorten your life expectancy?

    Mild psoriasis doesn't shorten life span. Severe psoriasis, which is associated with some serious health conditions like heart disease, may affect life expectancy, but every case is different.

  • What is the typical age for people to get psoriasis?

    You can get psoriasis at at any age, but it's most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 25.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis statistics.

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis.

  4. World Health Organization. Global report on psoriasis.

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  6. New York University Langone Health. Diagnosing psoriasis.

  7. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriasis.

  8. Gelfand JM, Troxel AB, Lewis JD, et al. The risk of mortality in patients with psoriasis. Arch Dermatol. 2007;143(12):1493–1499. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.12.1493

  9. Abuabara K, Azfar RS, Shin DB, Neimann AL, Troxel AB, Gelfand JM. Cause-specific mortality in patients with severe psoriasis: a population-based cohort study in the U.KBr J Dermatol. 2010;163(3):586-592. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09941.x

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  11. National Psoriasis Foundation. Treating skin of color.

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By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue, abcnews.com, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.