A skin plaque is a type of skin lesion which is characterized by being raised from the skin, and broader than it is tall. Skin plaques are associated with a number of disease processes which can involve the skin and other areas of the body as well. They are typically first seen by a primary care provider or dermatologist who can conduct some tests to learn more about what is causing the plaques so that approaches to treatment can be discussed.
Because they are raised, skin plaques can be felt during an examination. The area may feel rough and bumpy or smooth, depending on the underlying process. Often, the plaque is white or red, and may be scabbed or crusted. Sometimes a skin plaque is flaky, with pieces of dry skin creating a rough texture and appearance. The plaque can also usually be identified visually, thanks to the contrasting color and raised nature of the lesion.
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Psoriasis is a condition commonly associated with plaques, but they can be caused by a wide variety of other disease processes. Sometimes plaque formation is part of a congenital condition, while in other cases, it is a symptom of a new infection. It can also be a sign of skin irritation; exposure to too much sun, harsh chemicals, or allergens can cause a skin plaque to develop.
The location of a skin plaque can sometimes provide clues into why it formed. If someone has plaques on the lower arms, for example, it may suggest that the plaques are the result of allergen exposure, while plaques on the torso may indicate an underlying disease process, since the torso is usually protected from environmental allergens. Other information which can be useful includes the color of the plaque, the size, whether or not multiple plaques are present, and how quickly the plaques formed.
Treatment for skin plaques varies. Finding the underlying cause is important. While addressing the cause, soothing skin creams may be applied if a skin plaque is itchy or rough. These can include moisturizers to lubricate dry skin. If the plaque is associated with a congenital issue, there may be treatments such as soaks in soothing materials, light therapy, and so forth which could be used to soothe plaques and reduce the frequency of their formation. If skin plaques are caused by an emerging medical issue, addressing the cause may resolve the plaques and make the patient comfortable again.