Guttate psoriasis, sometimes also called eruptive psoriasis, is the second most common type of psoriasis. The condition is recognizable by the appearance of small, red, scaly, and drop-like lesions in some parts of the skin. The name “guttate” comes from the word “gutta,” meaning “drop” in Latin.
What is Guttate Psoriasis?
This psoriasis type is more common in children and young adults. The flare-ups usually occur on the arms, legs, back, and torso. But, they can appear on the scalp, bikini line, neck, face, and eyelids, too.
The size of lesions varies from one to fifteen millimeters in diameter. In rare cases, a single lesion can reach twenty-five millimeters (one inch) in diameter. They usually appear as small in the beginning and tend to grow as the condition develops. Also, the drop-like spots are not very thick or raised.
Worldwide, less than thirty percent of all people with psoriasis have this type. In the US, guttate psoriasis accounts for around eight to ten percent of all psoriasis cases.
Like all other psoriasis types, guttate psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. However, triggers such as infections of the upper respiratory tract play a big part in its development.
Some people experience a guttate psoriasis flare-up only once, while others have repetitive episodes. Sometimes the condition can co-exist with plaque psoriasis, or it can progress into it over time.
Symptoms of Guttate Psoriasis
The main symptoms of guttate psoriasis are drop-like, red, and flaky lesions covering the skin. They are not painful but can get a bit itchy at night.
The lesions can appear on almost all parts of the skin. But, unlike some other types, guttate psoriasis does not affect palms, soles, or nails.
In most cases, guttate psoriasis does not affect more than ten percent of the body. However, there can be some severe exceptions.
The condition can harm mental health and the quality of life when it affects the most visible skin areas, such as the face or hands.
Causes and Triggers of Guttate Psoriasis
Guttate psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. That means the immune system of the affected person recognizes healthy skin cells as intruders and attacks them. That explains the inflammation, resulting in red and flaky skin.
However, with this type of psoriasis, some environmental factors can trigger the symptoms.
The genetic predisposition for psoriasis is probably present in most cases of guttate psoriasis. The inherited Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) are associated with many autoimmune diseases, including those that affect the skin, such as psoriasis.
Upper respiratory infections can overstimulate the immune system and cause a powerful reaction. That can lead to a guttate psoriasis flare-up in the days or weeks following infection.
Throat infection with the streptococcus bacteria is the most common cause. However, other bacterial and viral infections can act as triggers too. These include:
- Sinus infections
- Tonsillitis, and
- Perianal streptococcal dermatitis (skin infection around the anus)
Other potential triggers are localized skin traumas (cuts, bites, burns, etc.) and certain medications, such as beta-blockers and antimalarial drugs.
Guttate Psoriasis Diagnosis
A dermatologist can usually tell if you have guttate psoriasis with a physical exam. The visible symptoms on the skin are a tell-tale sign.
Your medical history is also valuable, especially if you take some medications that can trigger a guttate psoriasis flare-up.
In some cases, a throat culture (for streptococcus bacteria), a blood test, or a skin biopsy may be necessary.
Guttate Psoriasis: The Bottom Line
Guttate psoriasis is usually not a life-threatening disease. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can progress to a more severe type of psoriasis and have a profound effect on the quality of your life.