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What Is Guttate Psoriasis and How Do You Treat It?

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Guttate Psoriasis: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Psoriasis is a well-known skin condition, but did you know there’s more than one type? According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 75 million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of psoriasis.

One form is known as guttate psoriasis. It usually appears without warning and follows an infection like strep throat. While it’s most common in young adults, it can also happen at an older age.

In this article, we discuss early guttate psoriasis, its symptoms, and any potential guttate psoriasis treatment.

What is Guttate Psoriasis?

Experiencing guttate psoriasis on the face, arms, body, or legs can be disconcerting. Its suddenness tends to surprise people, with the small, red scaly patches developing almost overnight.

Scientists have found that this type of psoriasis is most common in children and young adults, making up 8% of all psoriasis cases.

Most skin sores appear on the arms, legs, torso, and scalp. One of the critical differences between guttate psoriasis and other types of psoriasis is that the scales tend to be finer.

As an autoimmune disease, there’s no documented cure for the condition. Some people may experience a single outbreak that disappears without treatment, whereas others may experience it throughout their lives. But your dermatologist can offer relief to make it easier to live with.

Finally, is guttate psoriasis contagious? The answer is no. You don’t have to worry about spreading this condition to others because it’s non-contagious.

Guttate Psoriasis Causes

Doctors don’t know where gutter psoriasis originates. The only connection the scientific community can be sure about is that it develops suddenly, and most people notice symptoms after a bacterial infection, such as strep throat.

Psoriasis is more common than many people think. There’s little you can do to prevent it. Doctors believe your genes and immune system are involved, but there are triggers.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, some of the most common triggers include:

  • Bacterial infections, including upper respiratory infections.
  • Skin injuries, such as burns, cuts, and insect bites.
  • Medicines used to treat heart conditions and malaria.
  • Living a high-stress lifestyle.
  • Inflammation of the tonsils, known as tonsilitis.

Whether you have mild guttate psoriasis or a severe case often depends on the strength of your immune system. It’s been noted that all forms of psoriasis tend to be more severe in people with HIV/AIDS, other autoimmune conditions, or those undergoing chemotherapy.

Guttate Psoriasis Symptoms

Psoriasis is a highly visible illness, which is why so many patients seek support in coping with their symptoms.

The common pinkish-red spots are the most notable sign of this type of psoriasis. These resemble teardrops and may be as small as two millimeters in length or up to 10 millimeters. They also appear scaly.

You may see guttate psoriasis on the legs or torso. However, they can technically appear anywhere.

When to See a Doctor

It’s easy to dismiss the idea of visiting your doctor because if there’s no cure, what’s the purpose?

Consulting your doctor is essential because they can examine your psoriasis and rule out more severe conditions. Furthermore, they can advise on where to seek support in managing your symptoms and mental health. With this in mind, setting up an appointment with your doctor is a good idea from the moment you notice symptoms.

Your doctor will comb through your medical history, conduct a skin exam, and may take a blood sample or throat culture.

Remember, for many people, being able to put a name to their condition can provide them with closure and direction.

Seeking early support also has the benefit of allowing early intervention. Although most cases can disappear by themselves, there’s always the risk of it becoming a chronic condition. Enlisting a medical professional to stand by your side can help you address your situation from day one.

The Three Stages of Guttate Psoriasis

Three stages of this type of psoriasis exist. Note that just because you start with a mild case doesn’t automatically mean it will become more severe over time.

The most common way of dividing the three stages is as follows:

  • Mild – Psoriasis covers less than 3% of your total skin area.
  • Moderate – Spots cover between 3% and 10% of your skin area.
  • Severe – Lesions have covered more than 10% of your skin.

Medical professionals also determine stages based on how the condition interferes with your life.

For example, if your psoriasis covers your palms or soles of your feet and you work a physical job, your doctor might diagnose your case as moderate to severe.

Likewise doctors can also classify these cases as more severe if they affect your appearance and ability to socialize. One example is a teenager may have psoriasis that only covers a relatively small area, but if it afflicts their face, it can make it difficult for them to cope with school.

Guttate Psoriasis Treatments

So, how long does guttate psoriasis last?

Some cases resolve themselves within a few weeks, whereas others can take a few months without treatment. It largely depends on the person, and doctors aren’t quite sure why this is.

Even though there’s no comprehensive cure for the condition, there are treatments to lessen your symptoms and support skin healing. In all cases, there’s no reliable way to tell how long it could take for your psoriasis to go away.

Treatments for Mild Guttate Psoriasis

Prescription medications, creams, and lotions can treat milder cases at home. These treatments usually focus on supporting the immune system and lessening the symptoms as the body recovers.

So, what are the most common treatments used for these cases?

  • Creams to treat inflammation and itching. These medications will include a range of corticosteroids, such as cortisone, which are anti-inflammatories.
  • Creams and lotions containing coal tar.
  • Oral and topical medications containing vitamins A and D.
  • Anti-dandruff shampoo for psoriasis on the scalp. These shampoos may be over-the-counter or prescription-strength, depending on severity.

Treatments for Severe Guttate Psoriasis

Severe cases of psoriasis require a different approach to target parts of the body’s immune response. The risk of this type of psoriasis may evolve into the more severe form of plaque psoriasis, a chronic condition.

Plaque psoriasis has only been recognized in 7.55 million Americans, about 10% of all psoriasis cases.

So, what can your doctor do to treat more severe forms of this psoriasis type?

  • Immunosuppressant Medications – Evidence has shown that guttate and chronic psoriasis respond positively to medications limiting the body’s immune response.
  • Biologic Medications – These medications target specific parts of your body’s immune system and block them. Blocking particular parts of the immune system can reduce symptoms.
  • Phototherapy – Ultraviolet Light (UV) therapy delivered alone or with medication can treat this type of psoriasis. It may also be combined with laser therapy if your psoriasis evolves into plaque psoriasis.

The risk of this relatively mild type of psoriasis developing into a chronic condition is why you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Prompt treatment can improve your prognosis and make it less likely that you’ll need to cope with a lifelong struggle with psoriasis.

Can You Prevent the Condition?

Unfortunately, we don’t understand enough about psoriasis to provide concrete advice on what can be done to lower the odds of it developing.

Studies into those with a history of chronic psoriasis have revealed some positive actions that can prevent follow-up “attacks” later in life. However, the following actions can help:

  • Taking action to avoid respiratory infections in winter.
  • Avoiding sunburns during the summer.
  • Being extra careful to avoid skin injuries.
  • Abstaining from medications like beta-blockers and antimalarials.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.

None of these precautions guarantee that you’ll never experience psoriasis again, but many find them helpful for avoiding regular flare-ups.

Find Support for Guttate Psoriasis with The Mighty

In the conversation about health, it’s easy to forget that health is about the lived experience. The Mighty supports bringing patients together with more than 700 dedicated communities via our app, including a psoriasis support group.

With a 24/7 moderated app, we also provide insightful, helpful articles on the aspects of psoriasis that matter most to you. The Mighty helps you get the support you desire when needed.

Health is complicated, and you shouldn’t have to face it alone. Join The Mighty and connect with others through the lived experience in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Start getting the health answers you need today.

Getty image by nensuria

Originally published: March 28, 2023
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