How Long Does Psoriasis Last?

Long-Term Prognosis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease that is not generally considered life-threatening. It is a chronic disease, which means it has no cure and you will have it for the rest of your life.  

In psoriasis, your immune system is not functioning correctly. It causes white blood cells to attack skin cells as if they were harming the body. The body overreacts and causes the skin cells to grow more rapidly, building up on top of each other. The overgrowth of skin cells leads to itchy and painful scaly patches called plaques.

Psoriasis can impact a person's life in many ways—from how they feel about themselves to managing symptoms and overall health. The itch, pain, and appearance of psoriasis can devastate a person emotionally and physically. It is still possible to live your best life with the effects of psoriasis and thrive.

There is a variety of treatment options that can manage symptoms and improve quality of life. A primary goal of psoriasis treatment is remission. The immune system stops attacking itself during remission, and the skin starts to heal. It is hard to predict when and how someone will go into remission, but it is possible.  

This article will clarify whether psoriasis can be cured, how long it lasts, its prognosis, and more.

Woman with psoriasis itching

Anut21ng / Getty Images

Is Psoriasis Curable?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, and as with other, similar conditions, the immune system attacks healthy tissues. Treatments can help regulate your overactive immune system response, but there is no cure for psoriasis.  

Some people think remission means that psoriasis is cured, but psoriasis remission means skin will clear almost completely. Or, symptoms may not disappear—they just become less bothersome.  

How Long Does a Psoriasis Flare-Up Last?  

People with psoriasis often have flare-ups (periods when their skin symptoms worsen). Flare-ups, or flares, are often the result of specific triggers, such as cold and dry weather, infection, illness, stress, dry skin, skin injuries, and the use of some medicines.

A psoriasis flare can last from a few weeks to a few months. Flares are usually followed by periods in which symptoms subside or go into remission.  

A psoriasis flare-up is marked by red, dry, and thick skin patches. These patches sometimes contain silvery-white scales that itch or burn. The skin might become cracked and bleed. Psoriasis plaques frequently appear on the scalp, low back, knees, skinfolds (armpits, under the breasts, groin, etc.), and genitals.  

Additional symptoms of a psoriasis flare include:

  • Nail changes: Pitting, thickening, ridges, crumbling, discoloration, and nail bed separation
  • Emotional effects: Including depression and anxiety
  • Joint symptoms: Including stiff, swollen joints if you have psoriatic arthritis, which affects up to 30% of people with psoriasis

What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the joints and entheses—the areas where tendons and ligaments connect to bone.  

Prognosis of Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition with no cure. But with proper treatment and management, symptoms can be well-controlled, and most people with the disease can have quality of life. People with more severe psoriasis might have reduced quality of life and experience disease complications, such as heart disease and cancer.

No specific connection exists between psoriasis severity and joint involvement. This means most people with psoriasis may never experience joint troubles. Furthermore, most people with psoriasis experience a mild to moderate disease throughout their lives. However, people who also have PsA will have different prognoses for each condition.

Joint trouble in people with psoriasis is not always related to PsA. In one 2015 American Journal of Clinical Dermatology study, 51.8% of people with psoriasis who did not have PsA reported joint pain. Among those with joint pain, 48.1% reported pain in more than four joints.  

Mild psoriasis does not appear to increase the risk of death. However, people with severe psoriasis have a higher mortality risk than people with mild disease. Severe psoriasis is linked to impaired quality of life and disease complications, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, renal (kidney) disease, and some types of cancer.  

Fortunately, early treatment improves the prognosis for most people with psoriasis, even those with both psoriasis and PsA. A more aggressive approach with systemic medicines (those that treat the entire body) like methotrexate and biologic drug therapies might mean positive long-term outcomes, complete skin clearance, and long-term remission.

How Long Does Remission Last? 

Remission can last for months or years. On average, remission lasts from one to 12 months.  

For some people, remission of psoriasis may not mean symptoms disappear entirely, but symptoms may subside to the point that they are no longer troublesome. This is called "almost complete skin clearance," and people in this group might be classified as being in remission.

Most people achieve remission when treatment has successfully isolated the part of the immune system that causes psoriasis. With the proper treatment, many enter remission and experience no visible symptoms for some time. But remission is never permanent, and signs are likely to return.  

While rare, some people may experience spontaneous remission from psoriasis. This means that psoriasis has cleared without treatment. In these cases, the immune system has likely turned off its attacks on the body. 

Psoriasis Treatments  

Prompt treatment for psoriasis flare-ups can help people achieve remission or reduce symptoms to manageable levels. 

Your psoriasis treatment options might include topical medicines, phototherapy, systemic medicines, biologic drug therapies, and corticosteroids.

Topical medicines are medicines applied to the skin. Topical medicine options for mild to moderate psoriasis include:

  • Calcineurin inhibitors to reduce inflammation and formation of skin plaques
  • Corticosteroids to relieve itching and inflammation
  • Coal tar to manage scaling and swelling
  • Moisturizers to relieve skin dryness and itch
  • Salicylic acid to remove dead skin and scales
  • Retinoids to reduce inflammation

A healthcare provider can give phototherapy treatment in their office or prescribe a unit to be used at home. It uses ultraviolet (UV) light to treat skin areas affected by psoriasis skin plaques.

Systemic drug therapies affect the entire body or act on different body systems. Systemic medicines, including cyclosporine, methotrexate, and oral retinoids, work by suppressing the immune system to reduce skin cell formation.

Biologic medicines target specific parts of the immune system to treat psoriasis. Examples of biologics prescribed to treat psoriasis are Cimzia (certolizumab pegol), Cosentyx (secukinumab), and Orencia (abatacept).

Corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory drug. They can help to bring down inflammation during psoriasis flare-ups.

Lifestyle changes can also help manage symptoms of psoriasis. Changes might include eating a healthy, balance diet and avoiding triggers like stress, cold weather, and smoking.

Some people might consider home remedies to reduce itching, dryness, and skin pain. Home remedies like aloe vera and oatmeal baths can help reduce redness and itching, and moisturizers can treat dry skin.

What Happens If You Stop Treating Psoriasis? 

If a person stops treating psoriasis, progression of the disease is possible, and the condition will worsen with time. Psoriasis inflammation can also progress, which increases your risk for complications that affect the rest of the body.

According to The American Journal of Managed Care (AJMC), untreated moderate-to-severe psoriasis can develop into PsA. PsA can be painful and disabling, and AJMC reports people with psoriasis and PsA have a more significant disease burden (impact on quality of life).

Additional complications of untreated psoriasis the increased risk for:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Including heart attack, stroke, heart valve problems, and heart failure
  • Metabolic syndrome: A combination of different metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance, elevated blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and abdominal obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes: Condition in which the body does not correctly regulate and use sugar as fuel
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
  • Kidney disease: Condition in which the kidneys cannot filter blood normally, resulting in fluid and waste staying in the body
  • Some cancers: Including squamous cell carcinoma, lymphoma, and basal cell carcinoma
  • Serious and life-threatening infections

How to Prevent Psoriasis From Returning 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing psoriasis. If you are lucky enough to experience remission, you can take steps to keep your skin healthy and clear. Try the following strategies: 

Expose skin to sunlight: Some sun exposure can help keep mild psoriasis at bay. Researchers recommend multiple but short sunlight exposures for people with psoriasis who can tolerate sunlight.

Manage stress: Since stress is a psoriasis trigger, it is good to relax and manage stress to keep inflammation from developing.

Avoid scrubbing: Scrubbing skin can irritate it and trigger a psoriasis flare. Wash your skin gently, pat dry, and moisturize.

Keep your body healthy: Staying healthy can reduce systemic inflammation. Ways to keep your body healthy include eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet, not smoking, being active, and restricting alcohol intake. 

If Psoriasis Strikes Again

If psoriasis strikes again, the best course of action is to treat it right away. You have many options for treatment, and new medication options are becoming rapidly available. Try different things to figure out what best keeps symptoms at bay and to keep psoriasis skin plaques from worsening or returning.

Summary

Psoriasis is a lifelong autoimmune skin condition that results when the immune system malfunctions. An overactive immune system response produces inflammation that causes rapid skin cell growth, which leads to skin cells building up on top of each other and not shedding as they usually would. That buildup causes the skin to become itchy and painful. 

Psoriasis rarely is life-threatening, but it requires treatment. Untreated psoriasis can increase your risk of additional conditions, including heart disease, cancers, infections, and psoriatic arthritis. Severe psoriasis has also been linked to impaired quality of life and increased risk for death due to disease complications. 

A Word From Verywell

Psoriasis is a treatable condition, and it is possible to feel well and have quality of life. Make sure you take your medications exactly as your healthcare provider has prescribed. Be sure to care for your skin by moisturizing daily and avoiding harsh soaps and skin care products.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors for other related conditions and how you can reduce risk. Lastly, find ways to reduce stress like meditation, exercise, or seeing a mental health professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does psoriasis last without treatment?


    Psoriasis needs treatment, and symptoms can come back and worsen without it. Untreated psoriasis can also lead to complications like heart disease and psoriatic arthritis.

  • How do I get rid of psoriasis fast? 

    There is no quick solution to psoriasis, but topical treatments can help to manage skin symptoms. Systemic treatments like corticosteroids can help reduce the length of a flare-up, and systemic medicines can slow down the immune system's inflammatory response.


  • How do you stop psoriasis from spreading? 

    Psoriasis spreads because of an internal immune system response. If skin symptoms worsen, your healthcare provider might recommend systemic medicines like methotrexate and biologic drug therapies to slow down the inflammatory response that leads to more skin lesions.

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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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By Lana Barhum
Lana Barhum has been a freelance medical writer since 2009. She shares advice on living well with chronic disease.