Psoriasis is a disorder that causes flushed, inflamed skin. Affected skin may also have raised silvery scales or plaques, although psoriasis may look different on different skin tones. There are several types of psoriasis that can affect the skin on the legs.

According to one 2021 study, 3% of adults over 20 years old in the United States are living with psoriasis. The condition has a prevalence of 1.5% among Black people, 2.5% among Asian people, and 1.9% among Hispanic individuals.

Psoriasis on legs can appear on the knees, in folds of skin such as the groin or the back of the knee, or on other parts of the legs. Psoriasis cannot spread from one person to another.

This article will explain the appearance of leg psoriasis and list any differences in appearance according to the type of psoriasis a person may have. It will also list causes and triggers as well as treatment options for the condition.

Plaque psoriasis develops as flushed, inflamed skin and silvery plaques on light skin tones. On dark skin tones, psoriasis plaques may appear more purple or grey-colored. Patches of inflammation can be darker brown than the surrounding skin.

Healing psoriasis can cause areas of discoloration, which take 3–12 months to fade. Scratching plaques or picking them off can cause scarring.

Physicians may use a skin biopsy to help diagnose the condition if the appearance is not typical of the disease.

See more pictures of psoriasis here.

Different types of leg psoriasis may present with different symptoms.

Types of leg psoriasis with different symptoms include:

Inverse psoriasisred or purple inflamed skinin skin folds, including the back of the knee
Pustular psoriasisred or purple inflamed skin, pus-filled bumps, and brown scabs or scales as the bumps healon the feet or hands, rarely, it can appear on the legs
Guttate psoriasissmall round red or dark brown or purple bumps, occasionally with scaleson the legs or wide spaces on the body
Psoriatic arthritiscan cause swollen joints, especially the feet and anklesthe feet, ankles, or knees
Erythrodermic psoriasiscan cover large areas of the body with painful itching lesionsanywhere on the body

A person can have symptoms of more than one type of psoriasis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. A person can contact a doctor if they notice any symptoms of psoriasis on their legs.

Learn about different types of mild psoriasis here.

Leg psoriasis can have a variety of triggers, which may also cause a repeat of the symptoms, also known as a flare. Causes and triggers may involve:

  • Family history: Many people with psoriasis have a near relative who has developed the disease.
  • Stress: Managing stress levels can help people with psoriasis.
  • Injury: An injury to the skin can trigger a psoriasis flare. This can include bug bites or even damage from scratching.
  • Illness: This can include streptococcal throat infection, bronchitis, earache or other infections.
  • Alcohol use: More than two alcoholic drinks a day could reduce the effect of treatment for psoriasis.
  • Weather: Some people feel that very hot or very cold weather can trigger psoriasis.

Read a list of 12 psoriasis triggers here.

Psoriasis has no cure. A person can, however, manage the symptoms that affect their legs with treatment. Seeking early treatment for leg psoriasis could prevent the condition from getting worse.

A person living with leg psoriasis may also have body image or social issues due to the damage from the condition. Finding peer support and ways to manage mental health can have an impact on how effective treatments are.

A healthcare professional will prescribe medication for leg psoriasis. For mild conditions, home treatments can help.

Prescription medication

A healthcare professional could prescribe:

  • Stronger steroids: Corticosteroid cream is a topical steroid that doctors often prescribe for psoriasis.
  • Phototherapy: This treatment directs UV light onto the affected area of skin, helping to slow the growth of skin cells.
  • Medication: Doctors may use medication to treat psoriasis, including:
    • methotrexate
    • immunosuppressants
    • phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4)
  • Biologic response modifiers: Doctors inject this treatment to reduce inflammation.

Learn about medical treatment for severe psoriasis here.

Over-the-counter optical treatments

A person can use cream, ointment, or oil alongside other treatments. These topical treatments can be available over the counter. Creams may reduce inflammation, flushed color, and itching as well as slowing the growth of skin cells.

Product manufacturers may recommend a skin test before using a topical treatment for the first time.

Ointments are usually greasier than creams. However, they are less likely to irritate cracked or bleeding skin.

Moisturizers help to relieve dryness and promote healing. Choose a product that is fragrance-free and thicker than a lotion.

Learn more about over-the-counter medication for psoriasis here.

Reducing itchiness

Ways to reduce itching due to leg psoriasis include:

  • using products containing salicylic acid, lactic acid, or urea to soften and help remove scale
  • keeping shower times short to avoid drying out skin
  • moisturizing gently with a product if there is an urge to scratch
  • relieving itching with products containing menthol or camphor
  • applying cool compresses to itchy areas

Learn 12 home remedies for psoriasis here.

Diet and nutrition

Choosing a diet that helps to reduce inflammation and restores balance to the body can help to improve psoriasis. Always consult a qualified dietician before starting a specialized diet.

Some diet tips include:

probioticssaturated fats
vitamin Dsimple sugars
vitamin B-12red meat
dietary fiberalcohol

Learn more about how diet can affect psoriasis, including specific foods to include and avoid, here.


Keeping active and taking part in regular exercise where possible is important for a person’s overall health, especially if they have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.

A person with leg psoriasis may be more likely to maintain a moderate weight with regular exercise. Exercise is particularly important for people with psoriatic arthritis because it helps to keep their movement range.

A person with psoriasis can try:

  • Regular walking: Try walking around 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, where possible.
  • Yoga: This exercise can help to improve breathing techniques. It also strengthens and stretches the body, helps to control stress, and improves blood flow to areas damaged by psoriasis.
  • Tai chi: This exercise offers motion range exercises and simpler breathing techniques than yoga.
  • Swimming: This exercise may be beneficial because the water supports the body joints.


A 2016 study has shown that taking part in mindfulness activities can improve the quality of life for people living with skin conditions such as psoriasis. Researchers found higher levels of mindfulness led to lower levels of stress in study participants with dermatological conditions.

Learn about different types of meditation here.


According to a 2017 review, acupuncture may be a useful complementary therapy for psoriasis. However, it may only be beneficial in the short term.

A person should always use a licensed acupuncture practitioner.

Leg psoriasis may appear as cracked, flushed skin. It may cause raised bumps of silver or white scales on a person’s skin.

The exact location of psoriasis on the legs may depend on its type. For example, a person with inverse psoriasis may have patches of affected skin behind the knees.

There is no cure for psoriasis. However, treatment may improve a person’s quality of life. Complementary treatments may be beneficial alongside prescribed treatments. However, a person should discuss these with a doctor first.

Early medical treatment can stop the condition from getting worse. Mental health resources, a balanced diet, and maintaining fitness may all help a person manage the condition.