Case Reports

Psoriasis in Patients of Color: Differences in Morphology, Clinical Presentation, and Treatment

Author and Disclosure Information

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease affecting 2% to 3% of individuals worldwide. However, the majority of clinical data are in white patients, with limited data in patients of color. We present 3 cases of psoriasis representative of patients presenting to an urban and racially diverse hospital-based dermatology clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to illustrate the differences in psoriasis in patients of color compared to white patients. We review the differences in the morphology, presentation, treatment, and psychosocial impact of psoriasis in this population. We also discuss the importance of early diagnosis, treatment considerations, and education in dermatology training programs regarding psoriasis in patients of color.

Practice Points

  • There are key differences in psoriasis in patients with skin of color, including the morphology, clinical presentation, treatment, and psychosocial impact.
  • Recognition and awareness of these differences may normalize the condition for patients, support them seeking medical attention sooner, and better inform them of all possible treatment options.
  • Advocating further education on these differences in residency training and continuing medical education programs may help physicians make earlier diagnoses and personalize physician-patient conversations.



Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that affects 2% to 3% of individuals worldwide.1 Despite extensive research, the majority of clinical data are in white patients with limited data in patients of color, yet a number of differences are known. The prevalence of psoriasis differs among racial and ethnic groups, with lower prevalence in racial minorities.2 A cross-sectional American study using data from 2009 through 2010 showed the prevalence for psoriasis was 3.6% in white patients, 1.9% in black patients, 1.6% in Hispanic patients, and 1.4% in other racial groups.3 Psoriasis presents differently in patients of color, both in morphology and severity. Cultural differences and stigma may contribute to the differences seen in severity but also to the psychological impact and treatment choices in patients of color compared to white patients.4 It has even been theorized that treatment efficacy could differ because of potential genetic differences.5 Psoriasis in patients of color is an emerging clinical issue that requires further attention so that dermatologists can learn about, diagnose, and treat them.

We report 3 cases of patients of color with psoriasis who presented to an urban and racially diverse dermatology clinic affiliated with Scarborough General Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A retrospective chart review was performed on these high-yield representative cases to demonstrate differences in color and morphology, disease severity, and treatment in patients of various races seen at our clinic. After informed consent was obtained, photographs were taken of patient cutaneous findings to illustrate these differences. Discussion with these selected patients yielded supplementary qualitative data, highlighting individual perspectives of their disease.

Case Series

Patient 1
A 53-year-old black man from Grenada presented to our clinic with a history of psoriasis for a number of years that presented as violaceous plaques throughout large portions of the body (Figure 1). He previously had achieved inadequate results while using topical therapies, methotrexate, acitretin, apremilast, ustekinumab, ixekizumab, and guselkumab at adequate or even maximum doses. His disease affected 30% of the body surface area, with a psoriasis area and severity index score of 27 and a dermatology life quality index score of 23. The patient’s life was quite affected by psoriasis, with emphasis on choice of clothing worn and effect on body image. He also discussed the stigma psoriasis may have in black patients, stating that he has been told multiple times that “black people do not get psoriasis.”

Figure 1. A and B, Violaceous plaques on the back and arm in a black patient with psoriasis.

Patient 2
A 27-year-old man from India presented with guttate psoriasis (Figure 2). He was treated with methotrexate 2 years prior and currently is on maintenance therapy with topical treatments alone. His main concerns pertained to the persistent dyschromia that occurred secondary to the psoriatic lesions. Through discussion, the patient stated that he “would do anything to get rid of it.”

Figure 2. A and B, Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation from guttate psoriasis in a patient from India

Patient 3
A 49-year-old man from the Philippines presented to our clinic with plaque psoriasis that predominantly affected the trunk and scalp (Figure 3). He had been treated with methotrexate and phototherapy with suboptimal efficacy and was planning for biologic therapy. Although he had active plaques on the trunk, the patient stated, “I am most bothered by my scalp,” particularly referring to the itch and scale and their effects on hair and hairstyling.

Figure 3. A and B, Plaque psoriasis on the scalp and back, respectively, in a patient from the Philippines.


Clinical differences in patients of color with psoriasis affect the management of the disease. Special consideration should be given to variances in morphology, presentation, treatment, and psychosocial factors in the management of psoriasis for these patient populations, as summarized in the eTable.

At our clinic, patients of color have been found to have differences in morphology, including lesions that are more violaceous in color, as seen in patient 1; less noticeable inflammation; and more postinflammatory hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation changes, as seen in patient 2. These changes are supported by the literature and differ from typical psoriasis plaques, which are pink-red and have more overlying scale. The varied morphology also may affect the differential, and other mimickers may be considered, such as lichen planus, cutaneous lupus erythematosus, and sarcoidosis.2

There are differences in presentation among patients of color, particularly in distribution, type of psoriasis, and severity. As seen in patient 3, Asian and black patients are more likely to present with scalp psoriasis.2,5 Hairstyling and hair care practices can differ considerably between racial groups. Given the differences in hairstyling, scalp psoriasis also may have a greater impact on patient quality of life (QOL).


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