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Scaly, Itchy, Flaky, Red: Psoriasis Conditions and Treatments

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Sometimes, red or itchy skin can be caused by the wrong lotion, the weather or a minor allergy. But other times, a skin rash can be the result of a potentially serious or chronic condition.

For instance, psoriasis is a fairly common autoimmune disease that shows itself by causing raised, red patches to appear on the skin. These patches, which are usually scaly and itchy, often show up on elbows, knees or the scalp, but they can appear anywhere on the skin. While some forms of psoriasis can be just moderately uncomfortable, others can be debilitating and even fatal.

Here are the major types of psoriasis and how they are treated:

  • Plaque Psoriasis. This is the most common form of psoriasis and is marked by raised, red patches sprinkled with a whitish color on top. The white buildup is caused by a buildup of dead skin cells. The patches often show up on your scalp, knees, elbows, lower back, and they can be itchy and painful, sometimes even cracking and bleeding. This type of psoriasis is often treated with topical treatments or, if necessary, prescription drugs.
  • Guttate Psoriasis. Rather than large red patches, guttate psoriasis appears as small red dots on the skin. These dots, or lesions, often show up on the trunk or limbs, but can also appear on the scalp, face and ears. Guttate psoriasis can be triggered by a strep infection such as strep throat, upper respiratory infections or even stress. It can usually be treated effectively with topical treatments or phototherapy treatment.
  • Inverse Psoriasis. Showing up in the folds of the body, such as under the arms or behind the knees, inverse psoriasis is usually very red but not scaly. Treatments are usually topical, such as steroid creams and ointments.
  • Pustular Psoriasis. Recognized for its white pustules, or blisters, surrounded by red skin, pustular psoriasis often occurs on the hands or feet. While the blisters contain pus, it is not infectious or contagious. Pregnancy, medications, stress or infections can trigger pustular psoriasis. It is treated with topical medications or prescription medications.
  • Erythrodermic Psoriasis. A severe form of the disease, erythrodermic psoriasis can lead to widespread redness all over the body and may cause burning, itching and severe pain. It can also cause skin to come off in sheets, and changes in body temperature. While this form of psoriasis is rare, it can become life-threatening, so people who have it should see a doctor immediately. Treatment usually requires prescription medications or a combination of topical and prescription medications.

If you think you may have psoriasis—or if you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis and think you’re experiencing a flareup—it’s a good idea to see a doctor. For information about how we can help you at Skin Wellness Dermatology, please call our office at 205.871.7332.