7 Things Dermatologists Want You to Know About Guttate Psoriasis

Updated: Apr. 27, 2021

This common skin condition can become a chronic health issue. Get the scoop on what guttate psoriasis is—and how to keep it at bay.

Guttate psoriasis is a common skin condition

Guttate psoriasis on a man's torso.Courtesy American Academy of DermatologyThis type of psoriasis shows up on the torso and limbs and appears as small red spots that look like water drops on the skin. About 10 percent of the people who develop psoriasis develop guttate psoriasis.

It often comes hand in hand with other illnesses

“Guttate psoriasis can commonly be linked to upper respiratory infections (URI), particularly streptococcal (strep) infections,” says Mohiba Tareen, MD, a dermatologist at Tareen Dermatology. “Sixty-six percent of those with an acute guttate psoriasis flare had a clear history of a recent severe URI. The science shows that strep infections can activate immune cells called T lymphocytes that then ‘turn on’ psoriasis in genetically predisposed individuals.” Generally, the rash appears a few weeks after the illness that caused it subsides. Even so, you should learn these strep symptoms so you don’t avoid a URI diagnosis and delay treatment.

Stress—or simple skin injuries—can also cause a flare-up

“Stress, injury to the skin, sunburn, and rarely, medications may precipitate an attack of guttate psoriasis on susceptible individuals,” says Melanie Palm, MD, board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon from Art of Skin MD, in San Diego. For quick relief, try these all-natural psoriasis remedies you can make at home.

It can become a chronic issue

“For many cases of guttate psoriasis related to an infection, especially strep, it is likely to clear once the strep has been effectively treated,” says Dr. Palm. “Oftentimes, the guttate psoriasis does not return.” People under 30 years old are most likely to develop guttate psoriasis, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, your age may be a factor in whether it is cured or becomes a chronic condition. Dr. Tareen explains that children with guttate psoriasis may be in remission over a matter of months or even weeks. Unfortunately, the prognosis isn’t as promising for adults. The condition could become chronic or flare up with subsequent strep or viral infections.

It can turn into plaque psoriasis

Some people with guttate psoriasis have a hard time staying in remission, and it can develop into plaque psoriasis. A small study published in 2016 in the journal Cutis found that people with guttate psoriasis have a one in four chance of developing plaque psoriasis. An older study in The Journal of Dermatology suggests family history may also play a role in the progression. While that is a frightening fact, at least you can check out these promising new psoriasis treatments.

Medications can help

A handful of pills and capsules.funnyangel/Shutterstock“Treatment of guttate psoriasis may include topical steroids, calcipotriene, or calcineurin inhibitors,” says Dr. Palm. “In severe cases, light therapy, or systemic medications may be required.”

Lifestyle changes can help reduce recurrence

“Lingering infections, stress, physical injury—a phenomenon called Koebner reaction—alcohol use, and excessive weight may worsen psoriasis,” Dr. Palm says. Improving your overall health can help reduce the risk of a flareup. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a variety of lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, getting screened for related diseases, exercising, and eating a healthy diet. Take precautions by avoiding these foods that could make your psoriasis worse.