Watch for This Dangerous Psoriasis Complication

What is erythrodermic psoriasis?

Medically reviewed in December 2021

Psoriasis can leave you with pretty painful skin, but if you've had it for some time, you probably know the best way to control your flare-ups. But what if your scales start to change? What if another form of psoriasis starts attacking your skin? What would you do then?

Erythrodermic psoriasis is a rare, but serious, skin condition that mostly affects people who have plaque psoriasis. It covers most of the entire body, head to toe, and can look like a burn.

Outside of being extremely uncomfortable, erythrodermic psoriasis has serious implications for your health. It can up your risk for pneumonia and heart failure. It can also become deadly if not treated quickly and correctly.

Researchers aren't sure what exactly causes it, but there are some common triggers. Ditching your medication, severe sunburns, infection, stress and alcoholism are all risk factors. Sometimes the psoriasis appears as a bad reaction to a new medication. 

While it affects only about 3 out of every 100 people with psoriasis, it's a real possibility. Which is why if you have psoriasis you should look out for these symptoms:

  • Fiery redness that covers most of the body
  • Dry, warm skin
  • Intensely itchy, painful skin
  • Skin shedding in large sheets
  • Joint pain

Other signs you might see include:

  • Swollen ankles
  • Quick heartbeat
  • Shivering and chills
  • Night sweats

If you notice any of these symptoms, go to an emergency room right away. They'll be able to diagnose you by asking questions about your medical history, examining your skin and possibly doing some lab tests.

After diagnosis, the doctor will develop a fast-acting treatment plan. The plan will probably include steroids, most likely as a medicated cream. Biologic drugs may also help get rid of this type of psoriasis. The doctor may recommend oatmeal baths, lotions and bed rest while you recover, but those things alone won't be strong enough to treat this severe flare.

Talk to your doctor about how you can stick to your psoriasis treatment and hopefully dodge this dangerous condition.

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