Question: Is Psoriasis Hereditary?

Father and son with hereditary psoriasis

Answer: The short answer is yes. Psoriasis can be hereditary.

Family history does play a role in the probability of developing psoriasis, but there is more to the story. Heredity is one of the many factors that can predict being affected by psoriasis.

Healthline reports, “If both of your parents have psoriasis, your risk is 50 percent.” That doesn’t mean people without a family history of the condition are immune from developing psoriasis. No one knows the exact causes of psoriasis so anyone can be diagnosed with psoriasis, including people with no family history of the condition. When psoriasis symptoms surface, it’s never the work of genetics alone. Psoriasis needs a trigger. Triggers such as illness, cold weather, or stress—in addition to genes—can activate flareups.

“The disease is thought to manifest as a consequence of an inappropriate immune response against currently unknown causal agents, of self (e.g. autoantigen) or non-self (e.g. bacteria) origin, whereupon leucocyte recruitment and activation at the site of the developing cutaneous lesion perpetuates the disease,” explains the National Institutes of Health. In other words, psoriasis symptoms result when an immune system response goes haywire.

We don’t know the root cause of the immune system misfire. T-cells will mistakenly attack skin cells, triggering an immune system response that includes inflammation and the regrowth of skin cells in just a few days, rather than weeks. The hyperactive growth creates thick patches of skin that cause redness, scales, tightness, itching, and burning.

Psoriasis is a complex disease and to this day, is not fully understood. There have been scientific breakthroughs in recent years that are getting us closer to understanding the roles genes and environmental triggers play in psoriasis. It’s clear that to adequately predict in the future if someone will develop psoriasis we will need to examine their family history in concurrence with environmental and behavioral factors such as skin injury, body weight, alcohol, or tobacco use, and medications.

If you have psoriasis, but no known family history of it, you are not alone. Or if you have questions or concerns about other linked hereditary conditions such as psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other autoimmune diseases, please contact the National Psoriasis Help Line at 800-723-9166.