Psoriasis is not contagious and cannot spread between people. However, it can spread from one area of the body to another, especially if left untreated.
Psoriasis is a common autoimmune condition that affects the skin. It can be painful, and some with the condition may experience embarrassment due to stigma or find others treat them differently during a flare-up. However, psoriasis is nothing to be embarrassed about.
In this article, find out more about how psoriasis can spread through the body and ways of slowing or preventing its progression.
Psoriasis affects the skin, and people who have never seen it before may think the condition is contagious. However, it is not. One person cannot pass psoriasis to another.
The condition can spread from one part of a person’s body to another. This is not because it passes from the affected skin to other areas but because of changes to the immune system process, which causes psoriasis.
Depending on the type of psoriasis a person has, a psoriasis rash can develop in various places on the body. Most people with psoriasis have plaque psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis often spreads to the outer elbows, knees, and scalp, though it can spread anywhere.
A severe form of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, spreads over much of the body, causing discolored or bright red patches. This type of psoriasis is rare and can be life threatening, so people experiencing psoriasis that spreads rapidly and results in severe redness or discoloration should contact a doctor immediately.
Some people with one type of psoriasis may also develop a different kind, such as inverse psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis often shows up in skin folds, such as in the armpits.
People with a genetic risk for psoriasis might develop their first symptoms after coming into contact with a trigger. This means that interaction between their genes, immune system, and environment causes a person’s psoriasis.
Some common triggers for an initial experience of psoriasis symptoms include:
- skin injuries, including vaccines and sunburns
- infections, including skin infections and other types
- some medications, such as lithium, drugs to treat malaria, some heart and blood pressure medications, and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug called indomethacin
Most people experience psoriasis in the form of flare-ups. A psoriasis flare may begin as a small patch that spreads, then gradually gets better.
Scratching a psoriasis rash does not cause it to spread from one location to another. However, it may slow the healing process, creating the appearance that psoriasis is spreading.
Psoriasis is more likely to spread and become severe if a person does not receive treatment.
Long-term treatments for psoriasis
Biologic drugs aim to reduce the frequency of flares, the severity of symptoms, and the progression of the condition.
Other factors that
Treating psoriasis is the best strategy for preventing it from spreading.
Treatment often involves a process of trial and error. What works for one person might not work for another, and a person’s treatment needs may change over time.
Some treatment options include:
It is essential to moisturize the skin because it can speed the healing process and prevent itching. A range of moisturizing lotions suitable for psoriasis is available without a prescription.
Tar shampoo and soap may also help. Ingredients that encourage old skin cells to fall off, such as salicylic acid, can reduce the appearance of flaky plaques. However, some of these products can be harsh on the skin, so getting advice from a professional can help determine the most suitable lotion.
Steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, are also safe and effective for most people. They help with itching and can speed healing. However, using steroid creams for a long time may cause side effects, so talk with a doctor about the safe use of steroids.
A wide range of prescription medications can help with psoriasis. Topical steroid creams that are stronger than those available over the counter may help. Options include:
- antibiotics when psoriasis plaques become infected
- systemic drugs, such as methotrexate and cyclosporine
- biologic medications, which are immune system drugs a person receives through an injection or intravenously
- new treatments, such as apremilast, that target specific parts of immune cells
Phototherapy is a light therapy that involves exposing skin to UVB light. In the first instance, a person will need to go to a clinic or doctor’s surgery for the treatment, but many people choose to continue the therapy at home. A person must use the correct equipment, which will require a prescription, and have regular medical checkups.
Some people find their psoriasis improves after spending time in the sun, and many doctors recommend people expose their skin to the sun. Do this for a short time at first and increase exposure time slowly. Never use sunbeds or tanning lamps, as these can increase the risk of developing melanoma by 59%.
Identifying and avoiding psoriasis triggers can prevent the immune system from overreacting and causing a psoriasis flare-up. When psoriasis appears, minimizing exposure to triggers such as smoking may stop it from spreading.
Complementary and alternative remedies
Some people use complementary and alternative remedies, such as acupuncture, to prevent psoriasis from spreading. Other strategies, such as meditation and therapy, might help some people cope with any emotional effects or social stigma that may accompany psoriasis.
Genetic factors may play a role in the development of psoriasis, and there is some evidence that specific environmental factors might trigger an initial attack and subsequent flares.
However, those factors appear to vary between individuals. As a result, it is not possible to prevent psoriasis.
It might be possible to prevent subsequent flare-ups by keeping track of triggers.
A person with psoriasis might find that their psoriasis worsens with stress, after sunburn, or when they eat certain foods. Avoiding these triggers can lengthen the time between flare-ups and may prevent an early flare-up from spreading.
There is currently no cure for psoriasis. Medication and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms, though flare-ups may continue.
Following the treatment plan recommended by a doctor can increase the time between flare-ups and prevent the condition from spreading.
People with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are at an elevated risk of developing other health conditions, including:
However, following a healthy lifestyle and working closely with a doctor can help reduce the risk factors for other conditions.
Some people with psoriasis may feel stigmatized and embarrassed, particularly when people they know mistakenly believe that psoriasis is contagious. Psoriasis will not spread to another person, and touching a psoriasis plaque will not cause it to spread elsewhere.
Psoriasis can, however, spread to other areas of the body. People who think they might have psoriasis should ask a doctor about managing symptoms.
Keeping a journal of lifestyle factors and triggers may also help by making it easier to identify what makes a person’s psoriasis better or worse.