If you've noticed dry, itchy, scaly, painful, red patches of skin on your limbs, trunk, or scalp, you may have psoriasis or, more specifically, guttate psoriasis. This autoimmune disease condition presents with a rash and flaky skin and, like most autoimmune conditions, the symptoms of guttate psoriasis ebb and flow, and flare-ups may be triggered by a variety of factors. Diagnosing and treating guttate psoriasis should be done under the care of a physician, as this version of the condition differs from other types of psoriasis. Although there is no definitive cure, people with psoriasis can manage the frequency and intensity of flare-ups.

What is guttate psoriasis?

Guttate psoriasis is the second most common type of psoriasis. It affects about 10 percent of the population and can appear at any age but generally starts to form in childhood or young adulthood. The condition causes small, red, scaly patches on the skin that look like tears. While the lesions in plaque psoriasis are large and covered with thick, silvery scales, patches of guttate psoriasis are much smaller and thinner. Several hundred of these small, drop-shaped patches may appear on the arms, legs, torso, scalp, face, or ears. Although uncommon, guttate and plaque psoriasis may both be present on an individual.

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Stages of Guttate Psoriasis

There are three stages of guttate psoriasis, ranging from mild to severe. In the mild stage, a few papules (patches of the rash) affect up to three percent of the skin. Moderate severity is when plaques cover ten percent of the skin, and in the severe stage, guttate psoriasis covers much or all of the body. Underlying triggers and stressors determine the severity of the condition or flare-up in each individual. Sometimes the rash disappears and then returns, or grows and shrinks over time.

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Diagnosing Guttate Psoriasis

If you have had a bout of strep throat, you may be at risk for developing guttate psoriasis. If you develop lesions, consult with a dermatologist. They can typically diagnose the disease by performing a physical examination of the skin and will determine if it is guttate psoriasis by the appearance of the lesions. For some, a skin biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests can rule out other possible diseases.


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Conditions Associated with Guttate Psoriasis

Visiting a qualified dermatologist is the first step to determining if you have guttate psoriasis or a condition that presents similarly, such as seborrheic dermatitis, lichen planus (a skin condition contracted from contact with mold spores), ringworm (tinea corporis), or pityriasis rosea (patchy bright red rashes on the face). Guttate psoriasis can occur alongside these conditions, or mimic their expression.


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Triggers for Guttate Psoriasis

Autoimmune diseases can be triggered by stress, certain foods or drinks, or environmental factors. The triggers may share a commonality, such as upper respiratory infections, including strep throat and tonsillitis. Guttate psoriasis is not contagious but is often triggered by an infection such as streptococcal throat infection. The symptoms of guttate psoriasis typically appear two to three weeks after infection; this is the only type of psoriasis that progresses due to an acute viral or bacterial infection. Injury to the skin, as well as drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis, may also trigger episodes. Those who have family members with guttate psoriasis stand a larger risk of developing the condition.


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Treating Mild to Moderate Guttate Psoriasis

Guttate psoriasis can be difficult to treat, and some people with the condition are at greater risk of developing other medical problems. Controlling underlying medical conditions can help reduce the expansion and duration of guttate psoriasis. Your physician may prescribe topical medications as the first step, to treat the itching and soreness of the lesions. Topicals can help keep the affected area moisturized. Antidandruff shampoo can help with dryness and itching on the scalp. Other possible treatments include targeted exposure to ultraviolet light, called phototherapy, or antibiotics.

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Natural Remedies for Guttate Psoriasis

There are several natural remedies for this skin condition. Phototherapy is one. Others include salts such as calcium sulfate, which help reduce inflammation and slough off the buildup of dead skin cells. Reducing processed foods and animal fats and increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in your diet may also provide relief. Many vegetables contain anti-inflammatory compounds that can reduce the expression of psoriasis.


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Treating Severe Guttate Psoriasis

Severe guttate psoriasis treatments are similar to those used in milder cases, such as antibiotics for the underlying medical condition, changes to the diet, topical creams, and salt baths. Managing severe guttate psoriasis can be difficult, as it takes a variety of lifestyle changes and remedies to bring about significant relief. Severe guttate psoriasis can lead to other symptoms, such as joint pain and fatigue.


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Complications from Guttate Psoriasis

Generally, outbreaks of guttate psoriasis are manageable, but complications can arise from untreated lesions. Pain around the lesions may develop or increase, and a secondary skin infection could take hold. Mild-stage guttate psoriasis can advance to severe if not treated.

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Keeping Guttate Psoriasis from Spreading

Reducing the patches associated with flare-ups of guttate psoriasis can be as simple as treating them and reducing the triggers. Promptly treating any respiratory infections can prevent outbreaks. Keeping psoriasis lesions from spreading means treating the condition, trying to scratch, and keeping the skin clean and dry.


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