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Medical News Today: Guttate Psoriasis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease that speeds up the natural growth cycle of the body’s skin cells.

There are several different types of psoriasis, and the symptoms vary from type to type. The most common type of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, which is characterized by patches of thick, red skin and silvery scales on the body.

Patches can appear almost anywhere on the body but they often occur on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet. Psoriasis can also affect the fingernails, toenails, and mouth.

What is guttate psoriasis?

guttate psoriasis
Guttate psoriasis may resemble small tears or raindrops that appear on the skin in large numbers.

Guttate psoriasis is the second most common type of psoriasis.

It can appear at any age, but it generally starts to form in childhood or young adulthood. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about 10 percent of people who get psoriasis develop guttate psoriasis.

The name guttate psoriasis comes from the Latin word guttate, which means “drop.” The condition has been given this name because the small, red scaly patches that appear on the skin look like tears or raindrops.

While the lesions in plaque psoriasis are large and covered with thick, silvery scales, the patches in guttate psoriasis are much smaller and thinner. Several hundreds of these small, drop-shaped patches may appear on the arms, legs, torso, scalp, face, and ears.

Guttate and plaque psoriasis can occur together.

Triggers of guttate psoriasis

Guttate psoriasis can appear very quickly. It is not clear what makes the immune system overact, but there appears to be a variety of different triggers.

These include:

  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Streptococcal infections
  • Tonsillitis
  • Stress
  • Injury to the skin
  • Certain drugs, including antimalarials and beta-blockers
  • Dysfunction of nervous and endocrine system
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Environmental risks
  • Too much alcohol

Guttate psoriasis is not contagious but is often triggered by an infection such as streptococcal throat infection. It typically appears 2 to 3 weeks after an infection and is the only type of psoriasis that progresses due to an acute viral or bacterial infection.

It is possible to have strep throat or another viral or bacterial infection without exhibiting any symptoms, which is why guttate psoriasis sometimes appears “out of the blue.”

Guttate psoriasis can also have genetic causes. A person has an increased chance of developing the disease if it runs in the immediate family.

Diagnosis of guttate psoriasis

dermatologist examines a persons left arm
A doctor or dermatologist should be consulted if guttate psoriasis is suspected.

At first sight of any of the signs and symptom of guttate psoriasis, it is important to see a doctor so that they can confirm the diagnosis.

A doctor, usually a dermatologist, can typically diagnose the disease by performing a physical examination of the skin. The dermatologist can determine if it is guttate psoriasis by the appearance of the lesions on the skin.

In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to confirm diagnosis. Blood tests can rule out other possible diseases.

The doctor may ask about any recent bouts of strep throat or other infections, and they may order a throat swab.

The doctor will assess the severity of the breakout and suggest how to possibly prevent future breakouts.

The Physician Global Assessment (PGA) and Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) contain guidelines that are commonly used to assess the severity of psoriasis.

Neither is perfect, and research is underway to find the best way to evaluate how serious any case of psoriasis is.

Similar conditions

A number of conditions have similar symptoms to psoriasis.

These include:

These conditions can also occur during an outbreak of guttate psoriasis.

An outbreak of guttate psoriasis is normally manageable, but if it is left untreated, complications can arise.

Potential complications include pain, a secondary skin infection, and itching.

Treatment for guttate psoriasis

Guttate psoriasis can be difficult to treat. It is important to have appropriate treatment for guttate psoriasis, as some patients will have an increased chance of developing other medical problems.

These include:

Treatment options

lady sunbathes whilst reading a book
Sunlight in small doses may help to relieve guttate psoriasis.

For mild cases of guttate psoriasis, most doctors would suggest topical medications as the first step. Applying topical medicines directly to the area of the skin affected by the lesions can help to keep the area moisturized and relieve itching.

There is a range of topical medications available such as steroid creams, gels, vitamin D and coal tar applications, and ointments. This treatment can be done at home.

Antidandruff shampoo can help with dryness and itching on the scalp.

Other treatment options may include:

  • External drugs, administered orally or by injection
  • Phototherapy, using ultraviolet light
  • Antibiotics to treat the strep throat or any other infection

Although strep throat may trigger guttate psoriasis, some evidence suggests that people who do not have tonsils are 50 percent less likely to develop psoriasis.

Natural remedies

Some natural remedies may be beneficial.

These include:

  • Short periods of sunlight can help to minimize the severity of guttate psoriasis.
  • Salts such as kalium sulphate 6C may also be useful. These types of salts help to fight against inflammation as well as get rid of the buildup of dead skin cells and keep the skin hydrated. A soak in a lukewarm bath filled with Epsom salts may help to soothe the skin.
  • Avoiding perfumed salts as they can irritate the skin.
  • A healthy diet can help to reduce the effects of guttate psoriasis. Doctors recommend lots of fruits and vegetables, such as parsley, lettuce, and garlic.
  • Cutting out processed foods and animal fats may help to reduce skin inflammation.
  • A daily exercise routine can help to strengthen the body’s muscles and tissues, and this can help to regulate the body’s metabolic functions.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, so prevention is not always possible, but smoking and excessive alcohol consumption increase the chance of developing it.

With proper treatment, the lesions are likely to clear up completely, but guttate psoriasis may well recur at a later date.

Psoriasis can make people feel self-conscious, but clothing or certain makeup can be used to cover it. There are support groups for sharing information and experiences with others in a similar situation.

It is important to monitor for symptoms and any signs of reoccurrence in order to treat the condition early.

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