Elbow Psoriasis

Red, itchy, scaly plaques on the outside of the joint

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Elbow psoriasis causes red, itchy, scaly patches that typically appear on the skin that covers the outside of the joint. The elbows are one of the most common locations for psoriasis to develop. Plaque psoriasis is the most likely type, as it accounts for as many as 90% of all cases of this chronic skin condition.

This article reviews the symptoms and signs of elbow psoriasis, how it is diagnosed and treated, and what you can do to prevent skin irritation.

Psoriasis on the elbow

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What Does Elbow Psoriasis Look Like?

Elbow psoriasis looks like plaque psoriasis that occurs on other areas of the body. It can appear as:

  • Little red bumps and elbow skin thickening (early stages of plaque growth)
  • Red, raised plaque patches (on light skin) or purple or brownish plaques (on dark skin); plaques may have silvery scales and be of varying sizes
  • Smaller plaques that join together to form larger plaques

Psoriasis most frequently affects the outer elbow (the extensor surface), though it is possible for it to appear on the inner elbow (the flexor surface).

Along with this, elbow psoriasis can cause symptoms such as:

  • Itchiness
  • Skin pain or cracking and bleeding
  • Psychological symptoms, including feelings of embarrassment, shame, or a desire to isolate or hide your symptoms from others
  • Depression or anxiety that often accompanies living with chronic illness

Can You Get Psoriasis on Just One Elbow?

Yes. Elbow psoriasis can develop on one or both elbows, though that latter is more common. In addition, psoriasis may appear on your elbows alone or in additional places, including your knees, genitals, legs, and/or feet.

Diagnosing Psoriasis on the Elbow

If you are experiencing dry, thick, raised skin patches on your elbow or elbows, your primary healthcare professional may refer you to a skin specialist called a dermatologist.

They will take a medical history, ask about your elbow symptoms and how long they've lasted, medications you take, and any recent changes in your life (such as an illness or increased stress).

They will also look at the rest of your body to see if there is psoriasis in other areas as well.

One of the most useful ways to arrive at a diagnosis of psoriasis is to rule out other conditions that mimic psoriasis on the elbow, such as eczema or a fungal infection. It's also common for the skin on elbows to be dry or have itchy red bumps; sometimes these symptoms can be confused with psoriasis.

How Do I Get Rid of Psoriasis on My Elbows?

There are several options for treating elbow psoriasis. Your dermatologist will narrow down which are likely to be most effective and safest for you.

Treatments for elbow psoriasis include:

  • Topical medications: Medicated (steroid) ointments, creams, foams, or sprays are a mainstay of psoriasis treatment.
  • Medications: These systemic medications are injectable or can be taken orally. They include methotrexate (a general immune system suppressant), biologics that offer targeted immune system blocking like Enbrel (etanercept) or Humira (adalimumab), and Otezla (apremilast).
  • Phototherapy: Light treatments are used for treating moderate-to-severe psoriasis when other treatments are not effective enough. 

You may need to experiment with some different options before finding what works. Even then, your treatment plan may need to change at certain times, such as during more stressful periods that could worsen symptoms.

Avoid Irritating Elbow Skin

Having elbow psoriasis can present its own unique set of challenges. While you may gravitate toward covering your elbow so others don’t notice your skin, some fabrics can also irritate psoriasis outbreaks. 

Here are a few tips for avoid elbow skin irritation:

  • Choose loose-fitting long sleeves so fabric doesn’t rub against elbow skin.
  • Opt for breathable fabrics like cotton and linen.
  • Avoid fabrics like wool that can further irritate skin plaques and get caught up in rough skin patches.
  • Wash fabrics in scent- and dye-free detergent to prevent irritation.
  • Try not to lean on your affected elbow or elbows. The friction and pressure can sometimes trigger a psoriasis flare. This is known as Koebner's phenomenon.
  • Wash your elbows with lukewarm water. Hot water increases inflammation and can strip away much of your body’s natural oils.
  • Avoid using excessive amounts of soap. The more you use, the drier your skin will be. Stick to soaping those parts of your body that need it. Use soap made for sensitive skin.
  • Avoid getting a sunburn.


Psoriasis can affect the elbows, just as it can affect the knees, feet, and other parts of the body. Elbow psoriasis can cause red, itchy, scaly plaques, some of which may crack or bleed. These may appear on one or both elbows.

Some conditions, such as eczema, can cause similar symptoms, so it's important to be formally diagnosed by a healthcare provider.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis: signs and symptoms.

  2. National Psoriasis Foundation. Plaque psoriasis.

  3. American Psychological Association. Coping with a chronic illness.

  4. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriasis.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis: diagnosis and treatment.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology Association. What's the difference between eczema and psoriasis?

  7. Information NC for B, Pike USNL of M 8600 R, MD B, Usa 20894. Does light therapy (phototherapy) help reduce psoriasis symptoms? Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.

  8. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Psoriasis: Tips for managing.

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.