Psoriasis can be alarming if you’re newly diagnosed. When you look at your patch (or patches) of thick, red skin, you probably want to know two things: How can I make this disappear? And how can I stop my psoriasis from spreading?
The same answer applies to both: Get your disease under control.
That usually means you’ll need treatment from a doctor, ideally a dermatologist (skin doctor). While there are plenty of over-the-counter psoriasis treatments, you’ll probably need a prescription medication unless you have a very mild case.
How Psoriasis Spreads
Psoriasis can cause red, dry, itchy skin patches that look like a rash. But psoriasis is not just a rash. It’s a skin condition caused by a problem with your immune system. Your skin cells start to grow too fast, which is why you have those raised patches of skin.
During a psoriasis flare, an inflamed patch may get bigger. Another patch may appear somewhere else. This means your disease is in high gear.
Know that this is normal and often short-term. The disease tends to go in cycles. It’ll be active for a few weeks or months, then quiet for weeks or months.
Psoriasis Isn’t Contagious
You can’t catch psoriasis from someone or give it to someone else. But someone who sees your inflamed skin patches may think you have a contagious condition such as:
- Ringworm, a fungal infection that usually appears on your torso, scalp, arms, or legs
- Impetigo, an infection that causes sores and blisters
- Scabies, an infection caused by mites that get under your skin
Your personal trainer, massage therapist, or hair stylist might notice your skin patches and worry they could catch your condition. You may want to tell anyone who comes into close physical contact with you that you have psoriasis, and that it does not spread from person to person.
Treatments to Stop Psoriasis From Spreading
If you don’t want your small skin patch to become larger, and you don’t want more psoriasis patches to show up on your body, then you should start on a psoriasis treatment plan. This may include:
Topical steroids. Also known as corticosteroids, these are some of the most common medications for mild to moderate psoriasis. Topical means you apply the medication to your skin. Topical steroids are available as an ointment, cream, lotion, gel, foam, spray, solution, or shampoo.
Other topical therapies. Steroids aren’t the only topical medications that can get your psoriasis patches under control. Others include:
- Vitamin D analogues
- Calcineurin inhibitors
- Salicylic acid
- Coal tar and anthralin (another tar product)
- Non-steroid topicals such as roflumilast (Zoryve) and tapinarof (Vtama)
Steroid shots. Doctors can treat stubborn psoriasis patches with a steroid shot directly into the inflamed skin.
Pills. Theese can lower your body’s production of skin cells:
- Apremilast (Otezla), a phosphodiesterase inhibitor that blocks cells that cause inflammation
- Acitretin (Soriatane), a retinoid, which may stop cells from growing as fast
- Cyclosporine, which suppresses your immune system
- Deucravacitinib (Sotyktu), a tyrosine kinase inhibitor
- Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), which stops cell growth
Biologics. These powerful drugs, usually given as shots, control your immune system so it slows or stops psoriasis flares. Biologics for psoriasis include:
Other Ways to Stop the Spread
Remember, what you see as psoriasis spreading is really just your immune system causing the disease to flare. We don’t know exactly why it does that. What we do know is that certain things can trigger a psoriasis flare.
If you avoid these common triggers, you may be able to stop a psoriasis lesion from showing up or getting worse:
- Cold, dry weather
- Skin injuries: cuts, bug bites, sunburns
- Heavy drinking
- Certain medications (including high blood pressure drugs)
- Abruptly stopping oral corticosteroids