The first sign of psoriasis is often small red spots on the body. These eventually spread in circular patterns and accumulate patches of dead skin called plaques. Psoriasis gets its name from the Greek word psora, or "itch," a fitting name since the red, flaky patches of skin are often a source of itchy frustration for psoriasis sufferers.

The patches of skin may be:

  • dry, swollen, and inflamed
  • covered with silver-white flakes (scales or plaques)
  • raised and thick

While these patches can occur anywhere on the body, they typically appear more frequently in these areas:

  • torso, including chest and back
  • face, especially areas with creases, such as the nose or ears
  • elbows
  • knees
  • forearms
  • scalp
  • ankles

Other symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • pain, itching, and burning on the patches
  • restricted joint motion or pain (psoriatic arthritis)
  • cracked and/or bleeding skin
  • dandruff
  • pus-filled blisters
  • genital lesions in males

Psoriasis symptoms in fingernails and toenails, called nail psoriasis, involve pitting, small dents or depressions on the surface of the nail. Nails can also become yellow, discolored or brittle. Advanced cases of nail psoriasis may also develop into inflamed skin around the nails, causing the nail to slowly peel away from the nail bed.

Symptoms of psoriasis can begin appearing at any age. About 15 percent of all cases begin showing in children under 10 years old. The average age at the onset of symptoms is 28.

Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis can also begin at any age, but typically begin between the ages of 15 and 25. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include:

  • stiffness, throbbing, or swelling in joints
  • radiating heat in joints, most commonly in the knees and hands
  • swelling in the lower extremities, especially the ankles and feet
  • pain in the hands, wrists, lower back, knees, and ankles
  • conjunctivitis, or inflammation, of the eyes