Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. People with psoriasis have an overactive immune system that causes their body to produce too many skin cells. These extra cells move up to the skin surface and form red, scaly growths called “plaques” on the skin.

Guttate psoriasis is the second most common form of the disease. About 10 percent of people with psoriasis have this type. In people with guttate psoriasis, red, teardrop-shaped patches form on the:

  • arms
  • legs
  • stomach
  • back

Usually, doctors treat this type of psoriasis with creams or lotions.

Because guttate psoriasis often starts a week or two after a person has strep throat or another bacterial infection, doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics to treat it and prevent flare-ups.


Antibiotics are drugs that kill bacteria. Doctors prescribe these medicines to treat streptococcal infections like strep throat or tonsillitis. Both of these illnesses can trigger guttate psoriasis.

Antibiotics such as penicillin or erythromycin are effective for treating strep infections. However, there isn’t any evidence that these medications improve guttate psoriasis or prevent flare-ups of the disease.

Topical medicines

Doctors usually recommend skin creams and lotions as the first line of defense. These medicines can slow skin cell growth and help with swelling, redness, and itchiness.

Topical medicines used to treat guttate psoriasis include:

  • steroid cream
  • prescription vitamin D cream
  • salicylic acid
  • coal tar
  • certain moisturizers

The plaques should clear up within a few weeks or months of using these treatments.

Ultraviolet light therapy

If the creams haven’t helped and your skin hasn’t improved, your doctor might suggest ultraviolet light therapy to reduce the redness and swelling.

During this treatment, your doctor will expose your skin to ultraviolet A (UVA) or ultraviolet B (UVB) light. The light gets into the skin and slows cell growth. Before UVA therapy, you’ll use a medicine called a “psoralen,” which makes your skin more sensitive to the light.

See your doctor if you notice teardrop-shaped red spots on your body. A strep test can tell whether an infection has triggered your guttate psoriasis. You may need antibiotics to treat the infection, but you shouldn’t take them solely to clear up psoriasis. Antibiotics haven’t been proven to work on guttate psoriasis.

It’s never a good idea to take antibiotics for a condition they don’t effectively treat. Unnecessary antibiotic use can lead to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.