Psoriasis flare-ups tend to show up at the worst times (weddings, vacations… the coronavirus pandemic).

So is it bad news when your immune system wigs out during a pandemic? Especially since psoriasis is considered an autoimmune condition?

Let’s scratch that itch on the effects coronavirus may have on psoriasis.

person with psoriasis puts on COVID mask headerShare on Pinterest
Isabel Pavia/Getty Images

Research is still ongoing. So far, it seems like folks with psoriasis aren’t affected by COVID-19 much differently than the general population. Here’s what we know right now.

Does psoriasis increase my coronavirus risk?

The data on COVID-19 is still really new, and researchers are still figuring out which conditions and situations raise your risk.

A collection of studies published in December 2020 found that peeps with psoriasis are no more likely than the rest of the population to get COVID-19. It also found that immunosuppressive therapy and psoriatic arthritis don’t affect your odds.

That said, the folks with psoriasis who got COVID-19 reported that their skin got worse while infected.

TBH, that makes a lot of sense. Stress + infection + potential lack of access to your usual meds and creams = psoriasis attack.

Which conditions *do* raise the risk of coronavirus?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says adults with these health conditions are more likely to get seriously sick from COVID-19:

  • cancer
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic lung disease
  • dementia
  • neurological conditions
  • diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • heart conditions
  • HIV infection
  • weakened immune system (more on that below)
  • liver disease
  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • sickle cell disease or thalassemia
  • being a smoker
  • organ or stem cell transplant
  • stroke
  • substance use disorder (alcohol or drug abuse)

But what if I’m on immunosuppressants?

Since psoriasis is linked to an overactive immune system, some folks manage their symptoms with immunosuppressants and biologics.

A key point: These meds dial down hyperactive immune systems, not obliterate your virus-fighting abilities.

You’re right to wonder if immunosuppressants are no bueno while a pandemic rages. But the National Psoriasis Foundation is clear that most folks should continue with biologic and oral meds for psoriasis. Discuss this with your doctor since they’re more familiar with your condition and health history.

Any issues with psoriatic arthritis and COVID?

Maybe. Some folks with psoriatic arthritis take prescription steroids to manage their symptoms. The National Psoriasis Foundation says you should talk with your doctor about limiting steroid use during the pandemic. Steroids might result in more serious illness if you get COVID-19.

There’s also been one case of COVID-19-triggered psoriatic arthritis (ugh, double whammy). In this situation, a woman with a family history of psoriasis (but no prior symptoms) developed psoriatic arthritis after getting infected with the coronavirus.

Even though researchers have recorded several instances of COVID-triggered autoimmune issues, they’re still digging into how, why, and in which situations this is likely to happen.

There are several types of psoriasis and only one COVID-19 (though it’s got some variants 😬).

Psoriasis typically manifests as inflamed, itchy, scaly skin. On lighter skin it might erupt in thick, scabby-looking plaques or pink bumps or shiny patches. On darker skin psoriasis lesions can appear purple or dark brown with gray scales. The defining feature is that it affects your skin.

Fortunately, there’s not really any overlap between signs of psoriasis and coronavirus.

What to do about exposure if you have psoriasis

Just because there doesn’t seem to be a link between coronavirus and psoriasis doesn’t mean you should stop taking precautions.

Here’s what the CDC recommends for *anyone* who’s come into close contact (<6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone infected with COVID-19:

  • If you’re not fully vaccinated, quarantine for 14 days. Contact your local health department about testing options that could shorten your quarantine.
  • Most fully vaccinated folks can just self-monitor for symptoms. No quarantine or testing necessary unless you get sick or you live or work in a correctional facility, detention center, or shelter.

Again, COVID-19 and psoriasis do not seem to be related in any way. But you might be wondering how psoriasis and coronavirus treatments play together if you end up with both.

COVID-19 treatments

Fortunately, most folks recover safely at home. Some ways to treat symptoms at home:

Severe COVID-19 cases require medical intervention, which typically includes a hospital stay. Some current treatments include:

  • antiviral meds
  • treatments for serious complications like blood clots or organ damage
  • antibody treatments

The data suggests that having psoriasis doesn’t make you any more likely to get COVID-19 than those who don’t have it. However, you could experience a psoriasis flare-up if you get COVID-19.

Some psoriasis meds might increase your risk of coronavirus by suppressing your immune system. But that doesn’t mean you should stop taking them. Never tweak prescription drugs without a health professional’s guidance.

If you test positive for COVID-19, call your primary care physician or dermatologist ASAP. They can help you figure out how to safely treat psoriasis until you’re COVID-free.