Guttate psoriasis is a type of psoriasis that shows up on your skin as red, scaly, small, teardrop-shaped spots. It doesn’t normally leave a scar. You usually get it as a child or young adult. Up to 10% of people with psoriasis have this type. It’s not as common as plaque psoriasis.
It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning your body treats your own cells like invaders and attacks them. You might get it only once, or you could have several flare-ups. In some cases, this type of psoriasis doesn’t go away. With the help of your doctor, you can find a treatment to keep your symptoms under control.
In some cases, guttate psoriasis is genetic. If someone in your family has it, your chances of getting it go up.
Other triggers include:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Cuts, burns or bites on your skin
- Some drugs you take (antimalarials and beta blockers)
The spots you get from guttate psoriasis aren’t as thick as the ones from plaque psoriasis. You can sometimes have both kinds of psoriasis at once. You probably would get them on your arms, legs, stomach and chest.
It can sometimes spread from there to your face, ears, and scalp. But it doesn’t show up on your palms, the soles of your feet, or nails, like other forms of psoriasis can. You’re more likely to have a flare-up during the winter, when the air is dry. Your symptoms may clear up more quickly in summer.
Your doctor will want to know your medical history, especially what kinds of medications you may be taking. She’ll look at your skin. Usually, a physical exam gives your doctor enough information to diagnose or rule out guttate psoriasis.
If she needs more information, your doctor may take a blood sample or a throat culture to check for strep. It’s also common for doctors to order a skin biopsy when they want to know for sure what you have.
In most cases the spots go away on their own in 2 to 3 weeks. But your doctor may want to treat your symptoms and help prevent other infections in your body.
There are several over-the-counter or prescription options for the itchy, flaky skin, as well as the dryness and swelling. They include:
- Cortisone cream to help stop itching and swelling
- Dandruff shampoo for your scalp
- Lotions with coal tar to soothe your skin
- Prescription medicines with vitamin D or vitamin A
If your case is more serious, your doctor may give you a prescription to take by mouth. These include:
Phototherapy (light therapy) is another option. Your doctor will shine ultraviolet light onto your skin during this treatment. She may also give you medication to make your skin react more quickly to light. Sometimes, just going out into the sunshine can help.