Facebook Pixel

What's Your Psoriasis Severity?

By Anonymous
Rate This
What’s Your Psoriasis Severity? iStock

Part  1 of 5: Overview 

Understanding psoriasis 

Psoriasis is a common chronic autoimmune disease. It causes fast growth of skin cells. It's marked by raised, scaly, itchy, dry, and red skin patches. These patches are called psoriasis plaques.

Psoriasis is a very complex disease. There are many types of psoriasis, and they can range in severity. One big question you may have is, "How severe is my psoriasis?"

The severity of plaque psoriasis differs greatly from person to person. Certain treatments work better on mild to moderate psoriasis, while more powerful drugs help moderate to severe psoriasis. To treat your psoriasis, your doctor has to know how severe your psoriasis is.

However, it can be challenging for a doctor to classify how severe someone's psoriasis is. There's currently no consensus on how to define it. In general, psoriasis is classified on a scale from mild to severe. Your classification depends on many factors. These include how much surface area the condition affects and your specific physical symptoms. Keep reading for more on how psoriasis is classified.

Part 2 of 5: Mild to moderate

Mild to moderate psoriasis

Mild to moderate psoriasis is when plaques cover less than 5 percent of your body surface area. Psoriatic plaques look like raised surfaces with a silvery cover of dead skin cells. These are called scales.

Mild to moderate psoriasis does not occur in sensitive regions on your body. These include your genitals, face, hands, and feet. Topical treatments, like corticosteroids and vitamin D analogues, often work well to treat this type of psoriasis.

Part 3 of 5: Moderate to severe 

Moderate to severe psoriasis

When psoriasis affects more than 5 percent of your body, it's considered moderate to severe. It may affect your genitals, face, hands, and feet. Biologic drugs are a popular treatment option for this type of psoriasis. Biologics may be used alone or with other treatments to ease your psoriasis.

Part 4 of 5: Assessing severity

Measuring psoriasis severity

If you have psoriasis, your doctor will assess how severe your condition is. They will also ask how your psoriasis affects your physical, psychological, and social well-being.

Your doctor may assess the severity by looking at your physical symptoms of psoriasis. They may look for erythema (redness), scaling, and induration (lesion thickness). These three signs are often used to classify the severity of psoriasis.

There are no exact ways to measure psoriasis severity. However, there are tools available that can help your doctor classify your condition. Other tests to measure severity include:

Body surface area (BSA)

BSA assessments measure the total area of your body affected by psoriasis. Psoriasis that occurs on less than 5 percent of your BSA is considered mild to moderate psoriasis. If psoriasis affects more than 5 percent of your BSA, you have moderate to severe psoriasis.

Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI)

PASI is the most widely used tool for calculating the severity of psoriasis. It measures how much of your BSA is affected by psoriasis, the extent of raised red patches, and the hardness and scaling of plaques. It's a complex tool to use, though. Getting accurate calculations can be tricky. PASI is not approved for use in children and young people.

Physician's Global Assessment (PGA)

The PGA is a 5-, 6-, or 7-point scale that classifies psoriasis. It classifies it as clear, nearly clear, mild, moderate, severe, or very severe.

Self-administered PASI (SAPASI)

SAPASI is a PGA-like assessment. It helps people assess their psoriasis on their own.

Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) and Children's Dermatology Life Quality Index (CDLQI)

These assessments check the impact of psoriasis on a person's physical, psychological, and social well-being. DLQIis used in adults. CDLQI is used in children.

Your doctor may also use some other, less-common ways to assess your psoriasis. These may include the Psoriasis Assessment Severity Score (PASS) or the Simplified PASI (SPASI). Newer and less-cited assessments are currently being made as well.

Part 5 of 5: Takeaway


Your doctor will use tools to learn how severe your psoriasis is. These measurements are an important part of your treatment plan. By knowing how severe your psoriasis is, your doctor can better choose a treatment that will work for you.

Written by Jennifer Abayowa

Medically Reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on June 10, 2016

Read more in Psoriasis Resources
  • American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). Psoriasis. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/conditions/psoriasis
  • Crow, J. M. (2012, December 20). Psoriasis uncovered. Nature, 492, S50ñS51. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v492/n7429_supp/full/492S50a.html
  • Finlay, A.Y. & Khan, G.K. (1994, May). Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI)--a simple practical measure for routine clinical use. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 19(3), 210-216. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8033378  
  • Henseler, T. & Schmitt-Rau, K. (2008, October). A comparison between BSA, PASI, PLASI and SAPASI as measures of disease severity and improvement by therapy in patients with psoriasis. International Journal of Dermatology, 47 (10), 1019-1023. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18986347
  • Lewis-Jones, M.S., & Finlay, A.Y. (1995, June). The Children's Dermatology Life Quality Index (CDLQI): Initial validation and practical use. British Journal of Dermatology, 132(6), 942-949. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7662573
  • Menter, A., Gottlieb, A., Feldman, S. R., Van Voorhees, A. S., Leonardi, C. L., Gordon, K. B., Ö Bhushan, R. (2008). Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 58(5), 826ñ850. Retrieved from http://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(08)00273-9/abstract
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2012, October). Psoriasis: Assessment and management. Retrieved from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg153/chapter/guidance#assessment-and-referral
  • Psoriasis area & severity index. (2008, July). Retrieved from http://www.papaa.org/articles/psoriasis-area-severity-index
  • Spuls, P. I., Lecluse, L. L. A., Poulsen, M.-L. N. F., Bos, J. D., Stern, R. S., & Nijsten, T. (2010). How good are clinical severity and outcome measures for psoriasis?: Quantitative evaluation in a systematic review. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 130(4), 933ñ943. Retrieved from http://www.jidonline.org/article/S0022-202X(15)34764-3/abstract
  • Weigle, N., & McBane, S. (2013, May 1). Psoriasis. American Family Physician, 87(9), 626-633. Retrieved from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0501/p626.html

Psoriasis Resources

5 Ways to Stay Warm This Winter Without Agitating Your Psoriasis

5 Ways to Stay Warm This Winter Without Agitating Your Psoriasis

10 Ways to Treat Psoriasis at Home

10 Ways to Treat Psoriasis at Home

Why Your Psoriasis Treatment Is Not Working

Why Your Psoriasis Treatment Is Not Working

My Nightly Routine with Psoriasis

My Nightly Routine with Psoriasis

All in Psoriasis Resources

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.