What You Need to Know About Mild Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes thick, red, itchy, and painful lesions to form on a person’s body, generally after exposure to a trigger or an irritant to a person’s immune system. Although psoriasis lesions most commonly develop on the scalp, face, elbows, knees, and buttocks, they can form anywhere on the body and range from mild, to moderate, or severe.

What Is Mild Psoriasis?

Even in mild cases of psoriasis, it’s vital to keep your condition under control. While psoriasis manifests as a skin disease, it’s actually an inflammatory, autoimmune disorder that can seriously harm the entire body.

Like other autoimmune disorders, psoriasis causes a person’s immune system to attack healthy cells, leading to body-wide inflammation. This inflammation can have extremely detrimental effects on one’s health and happiness.

Psoriasis has been linked to serious chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and the lesions and discomfort associated with psoriasis have linked it to depression, too.

Evaluating Symptom Severity

All forms of psoriasis share several symptoms—like pitting or discoloring of the nails and the development of psoriasis lesions on the skin or scalp. But the severity of psoriasis takes a few different factors into account.

Body Surface Area

This factor considers how much of the body is affected by psoriasis lesions. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, mild cases of psoriasis cover about 3 percent or less of a person’s entire body.

So, how are you supposed to calculate 3 percent of your body? Look at your hand.

Including your fingers and thumb, one hand makes up about 1 percent of your entire body. Accordingly, using your hand to measure the affected surface area is a good way to determine whether your psoriasis is mild, moderate, or severe.

Appearance and Severity of Lesions
Look closely at the redness, thickness, and scales on your psoriasis lesions. If they’re very inflamed, thick, and scaly, you likely have a more severe case of psoriasis.  

Quality of Life
here’s no doubt that psoriasis is an uncomfortable condition. Lesions can itch, sting, crack, and bleed. And because psoriasis patches are visible, many people living with it feel self-conscious about their appearance. These factors can have a serious impact on the overall quality of your life, including your physical comfort, relationships, feelings, mood, and more.

The above factors are used to calculate an overall Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) score. While scores can range from zero to 72, a score under 10 is generally considered to be mild. Anything over 10 is considered moderate to severe.  

The bottom line? If you begin to develop red, itchy, raised patches of skin on 3 percent of your body or less, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist as soon as possible.

Because they can be slightly less inflamed, itchy, or uncomfortable, mild cases of psoriasis are often confused with other skin conditions, like eczema. It’s important to rule out any other causes and get the right treatment, so you can protect your body from the damaging effects of the disease.

Treatment Options

When you have psoriasis—even a mild case—the goal of treatment is to achieve clear, comfortable skin. Even a small patch can be itchy and uncomfortable or make one feel self-conscious.

Oral medications and injectibles are typically reserved for more severe cases of psoriasis but talk to your dermatologist about the best treatment options for your case.

Some milder treatments she may recommend include:

Topical Medications
Topical treatments like corticosteroid creams and retinoids reduce inflammation and slow cell growth on psoriasis lesions. In more mild cases of psoriasis, these kinds of treatments typically do the trick but may be supplemented by moisturizers, special shampoos, or other topical treatments.

Coal Tar
One of the oldest treatments for psoriasis, coal tar not only slows the growth of cells on psoriasis lesions, but it can also help alleviate the itching and scaling caused by the disease.

Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in over-the-counter acne medications, too. It works by lifting the scales on psoriasis lesions and reducing their redness.

Light Therapy
Light therapy, otherwise known as phototherapy, involves exposing the skin to controlled, natural (ultraviolet) light on a regular basis. This type of treatment should always be done under the supervision of a healthcare professional. Don’t run to your local indoor tanning salon. The National Psoriasis Foundation does not condone the use of indoor tanning beds in place of professionally administered light therapy, as it increases the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.

As always, talk to your dermatologist about the treatment best suited for you. If you feel your psoriasis is worsening or having a greater negative impact on your day-to-day life, she may consider prescribing a more aggressive treatment.

Lifestyle Changes

Fortunately, there are many simple lifestyle modifications one can make to feel better with mild psoriasis.

Revamp Your Bathtime Habits
If you love relaxing baths, you’re in luck—taking a daily bath can help alleviate itching and discomfort from psoriasis. Avoid very hot water, as it can dry out your skin, but a warm bath with Epsom salt, colloidal oatmeal or gentle bath oils can soothe inflamed skin. After your bath, apply a dermatologist-approved, ointment-based moisturizer to help lock moisture into your skin.  

Manage Your Triggers
Everyday triggers like stress, environmental allergens, or weather can cause frequent, and sometimes severe, flare-ups. While it’s impossible to completely avoid every trigger, learning how to manage your triggers can help prevent flare-ups or lessen their severity. If you’re triggered by stress, for example, try practicing yoga, meditating, or other relaxation techniques. Avoid extreme weather in the summer and winter months, as exposure to strong sun or cold, dry wind can worsen symptoms.    

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
What you eat won’t cure your psoriasis, but a healthy diet may help reduce inflammation, alleviate flare-ups, and reduce the risk of developing psoriasis comorbidities, like heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Research has shown that a diet rich in fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids can help protect you from a heart attack, high cholesterol, stroke, among other serious medical conditions, in addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight.  

Get Support
Just because a case of psoriasis may be mild, that doesn’t mean it can’t affect your daily life, relationships, or feelings. The discomfort and self-consciousness caused by psoriasis lesions can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, embarrassment, and low self-esteem. In fact, those with psoriasis are twice more likely to develop depression than someone without the condition.

If you’re feeling sad, angry, or withdrawn, it’s important to get the help and support you need to feel better. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member, join an online support community for people living with psoriasis, or meet with a counselor to talk about your feelings and learn the proper coping techniques.

Stick to Your Treatment Plan
Maintaining your treatment plan is vital when it comes to managing psoriasis. It’s not uncommon for treatments to stop working—or fail entirely—so don’t get discouraged if a treatment that was once successful loses its efficacy. If you feel your current treatment isn’t working, talk to your dermatologist about other options.

A Word From Verywell

Living with mild psoriasis can be tough—physically, mentally, and emotionally—but managing your condition with the right treatments and lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms and protect your body from the inflammatory effects of the disease. 

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Article Sources
  • About Psoriasis. National Psoriasis Foundation website.
  • Phototherapy. National Psoriasis Foundation website.
  • Causes & Triggers. National Psoriasis Foundation website.
  • Psoriasis Area & Severity Index. Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance website.