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Psoriasis: How to Stop the Spread

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on May 15, 2020

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:

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:

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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.

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Other topical therapies. Steroids aren’t the only topical medications that can get your psoriasis patches under control. Others include:

Light therapy. When you expose your psoriasis patches to certain types of light, they may shrink, fade, or go away. Light therapy is a first-line treatment for moderate to severe psoriasis.

Steroid shots. Doctors can treat stubborn psoriasis patches with a steroid shot directly into the inflamed skin.

Pills. There are a few types of pills that can lower your body’s production of skin cells:

You’ll need to tell your doctor about any plans to become pregnant or breastfeed before you start these.

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:

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology: “Is Psoriasis Contagious?” “Should I Treat my Psoriasis?” “What Psoriasis Treatments Are Available Without a Prescription?”

Cleveland Clinic: “Itchy Rash? How to Tell If It’s Eczema or Psoriasis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis.”

National Health Service (U.K.): “Common Skin Conditions.”

Pharmacy and Therapeutics: “Apremilast (Otezla): A New Oral Treatment for Adults With Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “Psoriasis Treatment: Cyclosporine.”

Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery: “IL-23 inhibitors for moderate-to-severe psoriasis.”

MedlinePlus: “Apremilast,” “Cyclosporine,” “Methotrexate.”

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Systemic Medications: Soriatane (Acitretin).”

Drugs: “Apremilast: A Review in Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.”

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