Why Does Psoriasis Show Up on Knees?

Knees and elbows, known as extensor surfaces, are common spots for psoriasis.

Psoriasis on knees and elbows is very common. That leads to inflamed, itchy skin covered in plaques or scales. Healthcare providers aren’t sure why it appears more often on extensor surfaces, the skin outside a joint. However, they do know that these areas, including the knees and elbows, are more likely to have psoriasis than other areas of skin. 

This article will give information about psoriasis on the knees and psoriasis on the elbows. It will cover how to treat dry elbows and knees and how to cope with psoriasis. 

Psoriasis on knees

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Psoriasis on Knees: What It Looks Like

The most common symptoms of psoriasis are having inflamed and red areas of skin. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type, making up about 90% of psoriasis cases. Most cases of psoriasis on the knees are plaque psoriasis. In addition to the red flakes, you may notice a white or silver coating around the plaques on your kneecaps.

People with darker skin are less likely to notice red patches from psoriasis. If you have darker skin, you might notice areas that are hyper-pigmented (darker) or purple-tinged rather than red.

Are Dry Elbows a Sign of Psoriasis?

The elbows are another common site of psoriasis. However, if you have dry elbows, psoriasis isn’t necessarily the cause. Elbows, like knees, are extensor surfaces that are often exposed and prone to bumps or scrapes. Overtime, that can lead to skin thickening or dry skin. Still, if you’re worried about your elbows or think you may have psoriasis, it’s best to speak with a dermatologist

Other Places Psoriasis Could Be 

Psoriasis can appear on any part of the body. However, it’s more common in certain places. In addition to the knees and elbows, plaque psoriasis is common on the scalp and lower back.

Plaque psoriasis and other types of psoriasis can also appear on the:

  • Face
  • Palms
  • Soles of the feet
  • Fingernails and toenails
  • Mouth

Causes of Psoriasis Flares on Knee Caps

Like other autoimmune conditions, psoriasis is characterized by flares, which are periods of more intense symptoms. When a flare calms down, you may experience a time of remission or very few symptoms. 

The causes of psoriasis flares can include everything from stress to weather changes to the clothing or soap that comes into contact with your skin. Doctors aren’t sure why, exactly, the kneecaps are more prone to psoriasis, but it could be because the skin here is under a lot of strain. Whether from bending and moving, rubbing pants, scraped knees, or other causes, the skin on your kneecaps takes a beating. That may leave it prone to psoriasis symptoms. 

The best way to identify the cause of psoriasis flares on your kneecaps is by keeping a symptoms journal. That way, you can learn what contributes to your symptoms and limit your exposure to your triggers in the future. 

Associated Knee Complications

In addition to symptoms on the knee caps, psoriasis can lead to pain, swelling and stiffness in the knees. These are symptoms of a condition known as psoriatic arthritis, where arthritis symptoms are associated with psoriasis. Up to 40% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. This condition can make daily movements like walking or climbing stairs painful. Symptoms, especially stiffness, are often worse in the morning. 

If you have symptoms of psoriatic arthritis in your knees, see a rheumatologist. These doctors specialize in treating inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and will be able to provide the care you need. 

How Psoriasis on Knees Is Diagnosed 

A dermatologist is the best doctor to diagnose psoriasis. Before giving you a diagnosis, they’ll examine you and discuss your symptoms. They’ll also take steps to rule out other skin conditions like eczema, which can be confused for psoriasis

Treatment for Psoriasis on Knees 

Although there’s no cure for psoriasis, there are many different treatment options. A dermatologist can help you develop a treatment plan for psoriasis on your knees. This might include topical creams, oral medications, light therapy, and more. 

In addition, there are home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help keep psoriasis symptoms at bay. Avoiding triggers, moisturizing regularly, and avoiding clothes that worsen your symptoms can be helpful. 

Psoriasis on the knees can be very visible. Or, it can impact the types of clothing you can (or can’t) wear. That can compound the emotional and mental toll of psoriasis. Therapy can be a powerful tool for people living with a psoriasis diagnosis. 


It’s common to have psoriasis on the knees. Knees and elbows, known as extensor surfaces, are frequent locations for psoriasis flares, although the condition can appear anywhere. In addition to skin symptoms like itchiness and redness, people with psoriasis can develop psoriatic arthritis, which leads to stiffness, pain, and inflammation in joints, including the knee. A dermatologist and rheumatologist can help you develop a multi-faceted treatment plan to address psoriasis on the knees.

5 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.
  1. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriasis.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis: Signs and symptoms.

  3. Abrouk M, Lee K, Brodsky M, et al. Ethnicity affects the presenting severity of psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77(1):180-182. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.02.042

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Psoriasis.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Work Group, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis: section 6. Guidelines of care for the treatment of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis: case-based presentations and evidence-based conclusionsJ Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;65(1):137-74. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2010.11.055

By Kelly Burch
Kelly Burch is has written about health topics for more than a decade. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and more.