Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes discolored, inflamed skin. Affected skin may also have raised silvery scales or plaques, although psoriasis may look different depending on skin color. Several types of psoriasis can affect the skin on the legs.

According to a 2021 study, more than 7.5 million adults over 20 years old in the United States are living with psoriasis. The condition has a prevalence of 1.5% among Black people, 1.9% among Hispanic people, and 2.5% among Asian people.

Psoriasis on the 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 is not a contagious condition. It cannot spread from one person to another.

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

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

Healing psoriasis can cause areas of discoloration, which may take 3–12 months or longer 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.

Different types of leg psoriasis may present with different symptoms.

Types of leg psoriasis and their symptoms include:

Inverse psoriasisdiscolored, inflamed skinin skin folds, including the back of the knee
Pustular psoriasis• red, brown, or grayish inflamed skin
• pus-filled bumps
• brown scabs or scales as the bumps heal
• on the feet or hands
rarely can appear on the legs
• in some cases, widespread symptoms across the body may occur
Guttate psoriasissmall round red or dark brown bumps, occasionally with scaleson the legs or other areas on the body
Psoriatic arthritisswollen joints, especially the feet and ankles• feet
• ankles
• knees
• shoulders
• in joints, such as in the fingers, toes, back, or pelvis
Erythrodermic psoriasispainful, itchy lesions covering large areas of the bodyanywhere 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 psoriasis.

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 close relative who has it too.
  • Stress: Managing stress levels can help avoid flares.
  • Injury: An injury to the skin can trigger a psoriasis flare. This can include bug bites or damage from scratching.
  • Illness: This can include strep throat, bronchitis, earache, or other infections.
  • Alcohol use: More than two alcoholic drinks per day could reduce psoriasis treatment effectiveness.
  • Weather: Some people find that very hot or very cold weather can trigger psoriasis flares.

Read a list of 12 psoriasis triggers.

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition. However, treatment can make a difference. Seeking early treatment for leg psoriasis could prevent the condition from worsening.

A person living with leg psoriasis may also have body image or social issues due to the effects of the condition. Finding peer support and ways to manage mental health can positively affect how effective treatments are.

A healthcare professional can prescribe medication for leg psoriasis. For milder cases, 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: Light therapy for psoriasis directs UV light onto the affected area of the skin, helping slow the growth of skin cells.
  • Medication: Doctors may use medication to treat psoriasis, including:
    • methotrexate
    • immunosuppressants
    • phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) inhibitors
  • Biologic response modifiers: This is an injection that reduces inflammation.

Learn about medical treatment for severe psoriasis.

Over-the-counter topical 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, redness, and itching, as well as slow the growth of skin cells.

Product manufacturers may recommend a patch 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 inflamed skin.

Moisturizers help relieve dryness and promote healing. People should aim to choose a product that is fragrance-free and thicker than a lotion. Fragrance can be irritating to sensitive skin.

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

Reducing itchiness

Ways to reduce itching from leg psoriasis include:

  • 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.

Diet and nutrition

Choosing a diet that helps reduce inflammation and restores balance to the body can help improve psoriasis. A person should always consult a qualified dietitian before starting a specialized diet.

Some diet tips for psoriasis include:

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


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 keep their range of movement.

A person with psoriasis can try:

  • Regular walking: Try walking for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week, where possible.
  • Yoga: Yoga can help improve breathing techniques. Yoga can also strengthen and stretch the body, help manage stress, and improve blood flow to areas damaged by psoriasis.
  • Tai chi: Tai chi exercise offers motion range exercises and simpler breathing techniques than yoga.
  • Swimming: Swimming may be beneficial as water supports the body’s joints.


A 2022 systemic review concludes that mindfulness and meditation could be used as a tool to improve the severity of symptoms and quality of life for people living with psoriasis on a short-term basis.

Learn about different types of meditation.


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.

Below are some commonly asked questions about psoriasis on the legs.

How can a person treat psoriasis on the leg?

Psoriasis is a lifelong condition. However, a person can manage the symptoms that affect their legs with treatment. These treatments may include:

  • prescription medication
  • over-the-counter topical treatments
  • diet and nutrition strategies
  • exercise
  • mindfulness
  • acupuncture

What can be mistaken for psoriasis?

Depending on the affected area, it is possible for psoriasis to be mistaken for the following conditions:

What are two signs of psoriasis?

Symptoms of psoriasis may vary from person to person and depending on the type of psoriasis they have. However, generally, two signs of psoriasis are:

  • patches of thick, red, brown, or grayish skin with silvery scales that itch or burn
  • thick, ridged, pitted nails

Leg psoriasis may appear as red, brown, or grayish scaling plaques on the 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, but 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 worsening. Supporting mental health, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining fitness may all help a person manage the condition.