People with psoriasis often describe an itchy sensation that burns and is painful. Most people with psoriasis experience itchiness, but there are ways to manage this symptom.

People with psoriasis often describe the itchy feeling that psoriasis causes as burning, biting, and painful. Recent studies show that about 60-90% of people with psoriasis say they itch.

For many people with psoriasis, itching (known as pruritus) is one of the most frustrating symptoms of the condition. It can be severe enough to disrupt your sleep and concentration and even interfere with your sex or personal life.

A problem with your immune system causes your body to produce too many skin cells, and it does so at a rate of production that’s too rapid.

The dead cells move quickly to the outer layer of your skin and build up, forming discolored patches covered in flaky, silver scales. The skin also becomes inflamed.

Even though “psoriasis” comes from the Greek words describing itchiness, in the past, doctors didn’t consider itching a primary symptom of the condition. Instead, they would determine the severity of the disease based on the number of scaly patches a person had.

Today, the medical profession increasingly recognizes itch as a significant symptom of psoriasis.

Several factors are thought to contribute to itchiness with psoriasis.

Psoriasis scales, flakiness, and inflamed skin can cause itching.

Itching can also be caused by external factors, such as clothing or other irritants, that may cause increased scratching and stress. It’s also possible to itch in areas of your body that aren’t covered by psoriasis scales.

When you have an itch, the temptation is to scratch. Yet scratching can increase inflammation and make itching even worse. That creates a pattern known as the itch-scratch cycle.

Scratching can also damage the skin, forming even more itchy plaques and even infection.

Stress is another itching trigger. When you’re under stress, you’re more likely to have a psoriasis flare, which can set off another bout of itching.

Weather conditions can also influence itching. In particular, very dry conditions and warm weather have both been known to trigger or exacerbate itchiness.

No matter how bad the itching gets, try not to scratch or pick at your plaques. Scratching can make you bleed and worsen psoriasis.

Many therapies your doctor prescribes to treat psoriasis, including phototherapy and steroids, can help with the itch. If it continues to bother you, try one of these remedies:

Medications and ointments

  • Rub on a thick cream or ointment to moisturize the skin. Look for ingredients such as glycerin, and petrolatum, which are extra moisturizing. Put the lotion in the fridge first for it to have a cooling effect on your skin.
  • Use a scale-softening product containing salicylic acid or urea to remove cracked, flaky skin.
  • Apply an over-the-counter (OTC) itch-relieving product containing ingredients such as calamine, camphor, benzocaine, or menthol. However, check with your doctor first because some anti-itch products can worsen skin irritation.
  • If itching keeps you up at night, use an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) to help you sleep.
  • Take cool, short showers, and don’t bathe as often. Frequent hot showers can irritate the skin even more. Moisturizing after your shower will also soothe your skin and reduce your need to itch.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation. These methods can relieve the stress that causes psoriasis flares, which might ease the itch.
  • Distract yourself. Draw a picture, read a book, or watch TV to keep your mind off the itch.

Why is my psoriasis always itchy?

If you have psoriasis, your body produces an excess of skin cells. Dead skin cells may build up on the skin’s surface, causing patches.

These patches may become inflamed as your body fights infection, which is what can cause the itchy sensation. There are other reasons for itching, such as scratching behaviors and stress.

Can I scratch psoriasis?

It’s best to try not to scratch psoriasis. Scratching may provide temporary relief, but it will not heal the itch.

Scratching can cause tearing of the skin or psoriasis patches, which may lead to infection. If you need to scratch, patting or gently rubbing the affected area is a safer option.

Will psoriasis spread if I scratch?

Scratching doesn’t cause psoriasis to spread, but it can irritate the patches and take longer to heal. If a patch is irritated, it may look like it is taking up a larger portion of the skin.

If you experience itchiness with psoriasis, there are options to sooth the itch. Medications, treatments, and lifestyle adjustments like medication or cool showers can help to provide some relief.

Your healthcare team can help you decide the best option for you. Talk to your doctor about the next steps to sooth your itchiness with psoriasis.