Psoriasis Rash: what it Looks Like and How to Deal

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What are the different types of psoriasis?

Psoriasis is generally considered an autoimmune disorder, and it can show up in different forms.

Plaque psoriasis

This is the most common type of psoriasis (an estimated 80 to 90 percent of people diagnosed with psoriasis have it).

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How do you spot a plaque psoriasis rash? Look for plaques (scaly patches) with a white crust, or glaze.

This type of psoriasis rash can show up on your lower back, elbows, or knees and usually causes itching and soreness.

Scalp psoriasis

With scalp psoriasis, you’ll see psoriasis plaques forming on your scalp, hairline, forehead, or neck or behind your ears.

Signs of a scalp psoriasis rash include:

  • dandruff-like flakes on your head
  • itchy, thick skin on your scalp
  • cracking skin on your scalp
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If you notice these symptoms, contact your doctor ASAP. In extreme cases, you could experience hair loss from scalp psoriasis.

Nail psoriasis

A nail psoriasis rash appears — you guessed it — on your nails.

You’ll notice bumpiness (aka nail pitting) and thickening in your fingernails or toenails.

Pustular psoriasis

Pustular psoriasis usually shows up on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet. It typically looks like swollen bumps that turn into scaly spots on your skin once they dry out.

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Other signs of a pustular psoriasis rash:

  • fever
  • chills
  • loss of appetite
  • nonstop itching
  • fatigue
Inverse psoriasis

Inverse psoriasis forms in skin-on-skin areas (yep, that means your sexy parts too). It can leave those body parts shiny and sore.

An inverse psoriasis rash can form in several areas of your body, including:

  • armpits
  • behind your knees
  • genitals
  • butt cheeks
  • under your boobs
Guttate psoriasis

If you have red spots all over your body, it might not be chickenpox — it could be guttate psoriasis. This type of psoriasis can appear after an illness and usually affects areas like your chest, legs, and arms.

Erythrodermic psoriasis
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Erythrodermic psoriasis is a rare condition that affects large areas of your body at a time.

Symptoms of erythrodermic psoriasis include:

  • red and itchy spots covering your body
  • intense pain in those areas
  • nonstop itching
  • racing heart

This type of psoriasis is serious. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

FYI: If you’ve had untreated sunburn marks before, you may be at a higher risk of developing erythrodermic psoriasis. Just another reason to make sure you’re always using sunscreen!

How can you spot psoriasis?

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Psoriasis symptoms vary from person to person. They can also differ based on the type of psoriasis you’re dealing with.

But there are some common symptoms, including:

  • inflamed patches of skin
  • dry skin that flakes or bleeds
  • sore patches
  • nonstop itching and a burning sensation
  • brittle and/or bumpy nails
  • painful or swollen joints near your rash

What does a psoriasis rash look like?

Here are a few examples of psoriasis rashes.

Remember: Yours could look different. That’s why it’s important to see your doctor for a diagnosis if you think you may have psoriasis.

When to see your doctor

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If your rash lasts more than a couple of days, it might be time to see the doc. Psoriasis doesn’t have a cure, so it all comes down to how you manage your symptoms.

Call your doc if:

  • Your pain doesn’t go away or gets worse.
  • You have skin plaques that won’t stop bleeding.
  • You notice changes in your fingernails, such as new ridges.
  • Your skin looks swollen and is hot to the touch.
  • You have a fever or a racing heart or feel dizzy.

How is a psoriasis rash treated?

It might take a bit of trial and error to find the right psoriasis treatment for you. It all depends on how serious your symptoms are and how your body will react.

Topical treatments

Research suggests topical treatments like corticosteroids work best when psoriasis is mild to moderate. Light therapy, topical medication, or a combo of both may be enough to manage your symptoms.

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Topical options include:

  • Topical retinoids. These work by reducing inflammation and skin cell turnover. They’re derived from vitamin A and can make your skin sensitive to light. So, if you’re using topical retinoids, slather on that sunscreen.
  • Anthralin. This treatment slows down your skin cell growth. But it does stain easily, so be careful when using it.

Home remedies for psoriasis

You can also use these home remedies to ease your psoriasis rash symptoms.

1. Get some sun

Getting more sunshine might improve your psoriasis symptoms. Make sure you start with short periods of sun exposure (5 to 10 minutes).

It’s still a good idea to avoid long periods of sun exposure and always wear sunscreen. Sunburn can make your psoriasis worse. (FYI: If you’re taking a retinoid, your skin will be more sensitive to the sun, so be careful out there.)

2. Soak in an oatmeal bath
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No need to wait for a special occasion to prep that soothing bath! An oatmeal bath is another tried-and-true home remedy for psoriasis.

Just make sure the water isn’t hot. Hot water can dry out your skin and worsen your psoriasis symptoms.

3. Moist-moist-moisturize it

Hydrating your skin is always a good idea. If a psoriasis rash is leaving your skin dry and flaky, try to choose lotions with vitamin D or vitamin A. Why? Research suggests vitamin D can be helpful in treating mild to moderate cases of psoriasis.

What’s triggering your psoriasis rash?

Some external factors can lead to new psoriasis flare-ups.

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These are the most common triggers for psoriasis:

  • Stress. Feeling stressed AF not only affects your mental health but can also trigger a psoriasis flare-up. In fact, one 2018 review suggests there’s a strong link between stress and psoriasis.
  • Alcohol. A 2019 research review suggests alcohol may make you more likely to develop a psoriasis infection. More research is needed to know for sure, but easing up on the booze could lead to some relief.
  • Skin injuries. Any skin-related injuries (like sunburns, cuts, or scrapes) may trigger a psoriasis flare-up.
  • Medications. Some meds (such as lithium, antimalarial meds, and blood pressure pills) can also trigger rashes.

Other types of rashes that are *not* psoriasis

Psoriasis, is it really you? Several other conditions that aren’t psoriasis can also cause itchy rashes:

  • Eczema. This is another skin condition that gives you all the itchy feelings. The major difference? An eczema rash is usually thinner and less red than a psoriasis rash.
  • Shingles. Meet chickenpox’s cousin, shingles. A shingles rash develops from the same virus that causes chickenpox. It can leave you with itchy, painful blisters that tend to disappear after a few weeks.
  • Heat rash. A heat rash pops up when your sweat glands are blocked and the sweat that’s trying to get out gets backed up. It’s most likely to happen if you’re hanging out in hot weather, and it usually clears up within a day.
  • Lichen planus. This type of rash has no known cause. It appears as small, flat-topped bumps on your skin. The bumps might be covered by a white plaque that can make this rash look a lot like psoriasis.
  • Pityriasis rosea. This type of skin rash usually shows up as one large patch before spreading to other parts of your body. It usually disappears on its own after 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Ringworm. Unlike psoriasis, ringworm isn’t an autoimmune condition. It’s a fungal infection. The name comes from the worm-like circle the rash forms on your skin. Ringworm is easily treated with antifungal meds.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis (SB) is a skin condition that usually shows up on the oily areas of your bod (your face and scalp). You could have sebopsoriasis, the combo (that no one asked for) of psoriasis and SB.

tl;dr

Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes scaly, sometimes itchy rashes on your skin. It can’t be cured, but lots of treatments are available to help you deal with a psoriasis rash.

Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your rash and find the right treatment (or combination of treatments) for you.

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