If you have psoriasis — aka PsO — you may feel confused by this complicated diagnosis. The complex medical jargon may seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you have psoriasis, also known as PsO, you may feel confused by this complicated diagnosis. The medical jargon can be confusing, too. There are many medical terms, abbreviations, and slang words that will likely come up as you begin treatment.
The more you know about psoriasis, the better you can be at managing it. Here is a glossary of terms about PsO that will help guide you through your journey.
Discrimination against individuals with disabilities. When someone prefers able-bodied or nondisabled people over people with physical limitations or disabilities.
The medical term for joint pain.
A very broad term for joint pain and inflammation that can include a variety of symptoms and illnesses that cause pain and limited mobility.
A type of disease where the immune system attacks or destroys healthy tissues by mistake. In an autoimmune disease, the body attacks itself by accident.
Brain fog is cognitive dysfunction that is associated with many chronic illnesses. This can be from sleep impairment or from symptoms of the disease. Sometimes it’s a side effect of the medications used to treat it, too.
CT scans are imaging tests that combine a series of hundreds of X-rays taken from different angles to create cross-sectional images (think of a deli meat slicer).
These scans are used to better visualize bone, blood vessels, and soft tissues and are more detailed than X-rays. They’re typically shorter tests with open sides (sometimes the machine is referred to as looking like a donut).
Medical terminology for what the patient states, in their own words, they are being seen by the healthcare professional for — for example, a rash, joint pain, or fatigue.
This might be seen in your medical office visit notes and is sometimes in quotes as the patient worded it (“I have joint pain.”)
Any health condition that lasts more than 6 months.
Other medical conditions you may have in addition to PsO, like:
The second layer of your skin. This is just beneath the epidermis.
Medications used to treat autoimmune, inflammatory diseases, like PsO. These drugs help preserve joints by inhibiting inflammation.
Several types of DMARDs exist:
Medical abbreviation for diagnosis.
A topical skin treatment that moisturizes and soothes, sometimes referring to one ingredient in lotions or creams.
The outermost, top layer of skin.
The medical term for redness of the skin.
A serious type of PsO that affects the entire body.
Sloughing, or shedding, of the skin’s first layer of cells. This can be visible with the eyes or microscopic.
A flare is heightened disease activity (often unexpected). Flares can happen due to environmental triggers, stress, or for unknown reasons.
A unit of coding that is inherited from our parents. It makes up your genetics.
The science of genes and heredity. How diseases, conditions, and traits are inherited.
Typically, this type of PsO has smaller spots with less thickness than PsO plaques. It often appears after an infection such as strep throat.
A medical system from the 1700s that uses natural substances to initiate the healing process. This process follows a “like cures like” belief by triggering small, natural responses to allergies or ailments, which is then thought to neutralize the disease itself.
HLAs are immune system markers strongly associated with the causes of psoriasis.
The body’s defense response to a substance it thinks is harmful or foreign.
A complex network of specialized cells, proteins, and organs that work together to defend the body against attack by foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses.
A hardening of soft tissue. This is often experienced as a warm sensation on a part of the body, such as a hot knee or patch of skin.
Being immunocompromised means having a reduced ability to fight infections. How immunocompromised your body is can vary in severity.
This can occur due to a weak immune system, PsO itself, or the medications used to treat PsO.
The invasion of the body by microorganisms that reproduce and multiply, causing disease or illness.
The reaction of cells and tissues to injury or disease. This is noted by:
A type of PsO that’s found in the creases of the body, including under the arms, groin, buttocks, and beneath the breasts.
Using a long, thin needle, a small sample of fluid is removed from the space around the joint for testing in a laboratory. This can help differentiate infection, gout, PsO, and other diagnoses that affect the joints.
This is slang for medications given by self-injection or IV for treating PsO.
When a psoriatic lesion appears at the site of an injury. This can be the first sign of a psoriasis diagnosis or might be a new lesion in an existing case of known psoriasis.
Any wound or injury to the skin or to organs (not specific to PsO).
Localized pertains to one area or one system of the body. For example, a rash is localized (in one spot), versus a fever is systemic (affecting more than one body system).
Localized is the opposite of systemic.
MRIs are imaging tests that use magnets and radio waves to produce a computer image of soft tissue and organs. These scans are more details than X-rays.
MRIs are typically longer-lasting tests, occurring in a long, closed tube.
The symptom of feeling run down, sickly, or flu-like.
Slang that’s used for the period of time after taking medication where side effects are strongest. It usually describes significant fatigue, lethargy, lack of motivation, and feeling disconnected from reality.
For example, a methotrexate hangover is very commonly discussed in social media and support groups.
A group of medications that are available in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. NSAIDs work to decrease inflammation without steroids. Examples include:
Medical abbreviation for over-the-counter, no prescription necessary.
Something that you can feel, like a mass or heat.
Slang combining the words pain and insomnia. This is used when your pain affects or stops you from sleeping.
A newer class of oral medications used to treat PsO. These are typically for people who cannot take, or do not want to take, traditional DMARDs.
A controlled method to expose the skin to UV rays for a set amount of time and strength.
Plaques are raised, thickened, patches on the skin. Depending on the individual’s skin tone, patches can range in color from red, to pink, to pale brown. They can have a silvery, scaly appearance.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of PsO. It includes red or silvery, scaly patches (or plaques), commonly found on elbows, knees, and the scalp.
Medications that make your skin more sensitive to light. In combination with UVA rays, this is a type of phototherapy. This treatment is often abbreviated as PUVA.
Being more susceptible to, as in likely to develop a condition based on genetics or other risk factors.
A chronic skin disease characterized by raised, plaques that are typically red in color and appear scaly and silvery. Oftentimes, plaques are painful or itchy. This is an autoimmune disorder.
A type of autoimmune arthritis that usually affects joints and where tendons and ligaments connect to bone. PsA is a systemic illness. It’s sometimes associated with pustular psoriasis or psoriasis of the nails.
This is an antibody that is often found in the blood of people with rheuamtoid arthrits (RA). It’s not usually seen in people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.
RF levels can sometimes be used to figure out which type of arthritis you have.
This is slang for people connected by their rheumatological medical diagnosis.
Medical abbreviation for a prescription.
This occurs when cells in the outermost layer of skin reproduce faster than normal and build up on the skin’s surface. This is a characteristic of the plaques found in psoriasis.
Slang for someone who participates in the Spoon Theory. Coined by Christine Miserandino, hypothetical spoons are used to represent the limited amount of energy someone with a chronic illness has.
There are many groups, hashtags, branding, and support communities that use this theory.
Short for corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are medications used to manage inflammation by inhibiting the immune response. One example is prednisone, which is sometimes referred to in the community as “the devil’s tic tacs.”
System means pertaining to multiple systems of the body — in other words, affecting the body as a whole. Systemic is the opposite of localized.
A type of white blood cell (WBC) that is part of the immune system. T cells help the body fight disease. In autoimmune diseases, these can be overproduced and lead to inflammation and excessive skin cell reproduction.
Something that is put on top of the skin (rather than ingested or injected). For example, a lotion or emollient.
Something from your environment, genetics, or both that can trigger the start of psoriasis or worsen a known case.
Injuries and infections are common triggers, but some people find weather, food, and emotional stressors are triggers, too. Environmental factors may trigger an autoimmune disease that you’re predisposed to, or worsen an existing one.
Specific sun rays or artificial light sources that have a short wavelength and are used to treat psoriasis. This is the same sunlight that can cause sunburn and increases risk for skin cancer.
X-rays are one-dimensional pictures of the inside of the body. These images are good for visualizing fluid, air, and bone.
X-rays use a powerful, invisible ray made up of very short waves similar to light.
Someone fighting a form of chronic illness.
A symbol for a rare disease.
Fact checked on May 10, 2023
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