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What is Pustular Psoriasis?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pustular psoriasis is a rare skin disorder characterized by red patches and clusters of small white bumps filled with pus. The condition may only affect a localized region of the body, such as the palms of the hands, or spread across a large area of skin. Pustular psoriasis often has a sudden onset that is accompanied by feelings of fatigue, nausea, and fever. Doctors can usually treat mild pustular psoriasis with oral and topical medications, but a severe case may require hospitalization and several rounds of intravenous drugs to prevent serious health complications.

A person can experience pustular psoriasis at any age, though it is most commonly seen around the age of 50. Risk factors for the condition include frequent use of topical creams, irritating lotions, and systemic steroids. Research suggests that certain oral antibiotics, antidepressants, and pain medications may also cause allergy-like reactions that result in pustular psoriasis. In addition, a person with very sensitive skin may develop the condition if he or she spends an inordinate amount of time in the sun.

Most episodes of pustular psoriasis come on suddenly and severely. Pus-filled blisters emerge from areas of red, scaly skin. The affected area is typically tender to the touch and may cause burning and itching sensations. It is common for a person to experience headaches, nausea, chills, fever, and loss of appetite. Without treatment, acute pustular psoriasis can affect respiratory system functioning and heart rate, leading to shortness of breath, fatigue, and fainting.

An individual who has a mild skin reaction should visit a dermatologist as soon as possible to receive a proper diagnosis and learn about treatment options. A doctor can usually make a diagnosis by simply examining the skin and asking about symptoms, though he or she may decide to conduct blood tests to confirm the condition and look for underlying causes. Mild, localized psoriasis is usually treated with medicated ointments to reduce pain and itching and dietary supplements to boost the immune system.

Immediate care at an emergency room should be sought if psoriasis becomes widespread or it is accompanied by severe physical symptoms. Upon admittance into a hospital, specialists can administer intravenous fluids to keep a patient hydrated and medications to reduce pain and inflammation. Careful monitoring and frequent topical treatments are necessary to avoid dangerous complications. With the appropriate medical care and future avoidance of known triggers, most people are able to recover from pustular psoriasis.

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