Guttate psoriasis is a skin condition in which small, droplet-shaped, red patches appear on the:

  • arms
  • legs
  • scalp
  • trunk

“Guttate” stems from the Latin word for “drop.” It’s the second most common form of psoriasis. Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes skin redness and irritation. It typically affects children and adults under 30 years old. Respiratory illnesses or viral infections are common triggers. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), about of people who have psoriasis will develop this type of psoriasis.

Unlike plaque psoriasis, which has raised lesions, the spots caused by guttate psoriasis aren’t very thick. Spots are typically small. They may have a covering of thin, flaky skin called scales.

Guttate psoriasis isn’t contagious. It can’t spread to others through skin-to-skin contact. Spots often clear up with minor treatment. Guttate psoriasis may be a lifelong condition for some, or it may appear later as plaque psoriasis.

Guttate psoriasis flare-ups are often sudden. The breakouts typically involve small, red marks that intensify and expand. They can cover large portions of the body or may remain in smaller patches.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the lesions of guttate psoriasis typically appear:

  • small in size
  • red or dark pink
  • separate from each other
  • on the trunk or limbs
  • thinner than plaque psoriasis lesions

The real cause of psoriasis is unknown, but research indicates that it’s an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s natural defense system attacks healthy cells. In psoriasis, the immune system targets the skin, which results in a rapid growth of skin cells. This causes the redness and flaky skin typical of psoriasis.

According to the NPF, certain factors may trigger an outbreak of guttate psoriasis, such as:

  • an injury to the skin
  • strep throat
  • stress
  • tonsillitis
  • certain medications, including antimalarial drugs and beta-blockers (drugs used to treat heart disorders)

Your doctor can identify signs of guttate psoriasis during a physical examination. Your regular doctor will typically refer you to a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.

Your dermatologist will examine your skin and make note of the affected areas. This mapping will help them track treatments after diagnosis. They’ll also take a complete medical history to rule out other conditions, such as an allergic reaction.

Your dermatologist may also order a skin biopsy to eliminate other possible contributors to the skin lesions and to help determine the type of psoriasis.

A topical cream or ointment is the first line of treatment for this type of psoriasis. These often contain mild steroids. You should apply these once or twice per day. The steroids suppress the body’s immune response, resulting in fewer excess skin cells. You can find online.

Other psoriasis medications include:

  • Corticosteroids. These are steroid hormones similar to hormones produced by the adrenal glands. They can help by reducing redness, itching, and inflammation.
  • Cyclosporine. This medication is typically used to prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ. It’s also used for other immune-related conditions.
  • Methotrexate. This medication suppresses the immune system. It’s typically used in severe cases, or when other treatments don’t work.

Besides medication, there are other therapies and strategies that can help control symptoms, such as:

  • Dandruff shampoos. These shampoos can help treat scalp psoriasis. Find online.
  • Lotions that contain coal tar. These can reduce inflammation and itching. Find online.
  • Cortisone cream. This can help control itching.
  • Exposure to UV rays. This can either be done through sunlight or phototherapy.

Your dermatologist will help you choose the form of therapy that best suits your condition and lifestyle.

There’s no cure for psoriasis. The goal is to manage symptoms. Follow your doctor’s treatment plan, and avoid triggers when possible. The following can all trigger an outbreak:

  • infections
  • stress
  • skin injuries
  • smoking cigarettes

If you’re using topical treatments, including them in your post-shower routine is the easiest way to remember to use them. Water strips your body of its natural moisture. Applying ointments immediately after a shower can help lock in precious moisture.

Learning more about your condition can help you manage and treat your symptoms. Consider joining a psoriasis support group and speaking to others with your condition. The knowledge and tips you gain in dealing with your condition can be invaluable.

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