Psoriasis is a common, chronic (long-term) skin condition. It can’t be cured, but it can be treated.

Psoriasis occurs when your body’s skin cells build up too quickly because of rapid cell production. The excess production leads to thick, scaly patches on areas of your body, which can include the delicate skin around your eyes.

Psoriasis around your eyes can be treated, but it requires special attention from your doctor. The tissues in this sensitive area are delicate and easily scarred. Treatments need to be carefully monitored to avoid aggravating the skin and making the condition worse.

The symptoms of psoriasis around your eyes match many of the symptoms of psoriasis elsewhere on your body. Psoriasis on and around your eyes, though, may impact your daily life more because of its location. For example, the buildup of skin cells may lead to patches so large that you have trouble closing and opening your eyelids.

Other symptoms of psoriasis around the eyes include:

  • red, scaly growths around your eyes
  • dry, cracked skin that might bleed
  • pain when moving your eyelids
  • trouble opening and closing your eyelids
  • eyelashes rubbing against the orbit of the eye because scales push the eyelid inward
  • eye dryness because scales pull the eyelid outward

Treatment for psoriasis approaches the condition in two ways. First, treatment can ease any symptoms you’re having. Secondly, it can help slow the overgrowth of skin cells and reduce inflammation where the buildup occurs.

The main types of treatment available for psoriasis around the eyes are topical treatments, systemic medications, and light therapy. These treatments may be used alone, but many doctors recommend a combination of 2 or all 3 to treat psoriasis effectively.

Topical treatments

Several types of creams and ointments can effectively treat mild cases of psoriasis. Not all of these can be used on the delicate skin around your eyes, however.

Overuse of some topical treatments around your eyes can increase your risk of glaucoma and cataracts. For that reason, it’s important to work with your doctor to use topical treatments safely.

Phototherapy (light therapy)

Natural and artificial ultraviolet (UV) light can help ease the symptoms of psoriasis around the eyes. However, overexposure to UV light can worsen psoriasis. It can also increase your risk of skin damage and skin cancer, especially in the delicate skin on your face. Don’t use phototherapy without first talking to your doctor about it.

Systemic medications

Your doctor may prescribe oral or injectable medications if other treatments for your psoriasis don’t work. These medications often have side effects. Your doctor may only use them for initial treatment of a difficult case of psoriasis. This type of treatment is usually not used on a long-term basis.

Certain people are more likely to develop psoriasis around the eyes because of certain risk factors, including:

Personal history of psoriasis: If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis on other parts of your body, your risk of developing it on or near your eyes is higher.

Family history of psoriasis: Your risk of psoriasis increases if a member of your immediate family, such as a parent or sibling, has the condition.

Stress: Stress and anxiety can greatly impact your immune system. A compromised immune system may increase your risk of psoriasis.

Infections: People with viral or bacterial infections, such as HIV or strep throat, are more likely to develop psoriasis because their immune systems are compromised.

Obesity: Carrying excess weight increases your risk of developing psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis (a type of psoriasis that shows up a red lesions that are smooth and shiny) commonly develops in skin folds and creases. The larger your body is, the larger the folds can be.

Smoking: If you’re a smoker, you have an increased risk of developing psoriasis. Additionally, smoking increases the risk that your psoriasis will be severe.

Learn more: 4 ways to boost your immune system with psoriasis »

Treatment is available for psoriasis around the eyes. Work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that eases your symptoms. Some treatment may lower your chances of developing new plaques in the future.

If your body stops responding to the treatments you’ve used, your doctor may need to adjust your treatment. If this occurs, be sure to follow your new treatment plan closely. The treatment changes may help you continue to reduce your episodes of troublesome and painful psoriasis.