Psoriasis is characterized by thick, scaly, itchy, and sometimes painful lesions that form on the surface of the skin. Also known as psoriasis plaques, these lesions can range from mild to severe. They most often affect the scalp, face, elbows, buttocks, and knees, but they can form anywhere on the body.

In more severe cases of psoriasis, plaques can crack and bleed, resulting in fissures and open sores on the skin. Psoriasis fissures and open sores may be painful and susceptible to infection. For some people, they may also be a source of mental and emotional distress.

If you live with psoriasis and sometimes experience these symptoms, it’s a good idea to know a few simple first-aid techniques to help protect your skin. This knowledge can help you avoid infection and better manage your condition over time.

Keep in mind, if you regularly develop fissures and open sores, your condition may not be well-controlled. Be sure to tell your doctor if you experience these psoriasis symptoms on a frequent basis.

If you develop psoriasis plaques that open and cause fissures in the skin, it’s vital to apply basic first-aid techniques to avoid infection and help the sores heal faster.

Here’s what to do:

  1. First, before you do anything else, wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. A quick trick to estimate this amount of time is to sing “Happy Birthday” all the way through. Even after washing your hands, consider wearing disposable latex gloves if you have them available. That way, you can avoid touching the wound with your fingers.
  2. If your sore or fissure is bleeding, stop the bleeding by applying steady pressure with a clean gauze pad or cloth for several minutes.
  3. Once the bleeding has stopped, rinse the wound with warm water or saline solution. Remove any debris, like clothing lint, dirt, or make-up from the sore.
  4. Gently clean the area with warm, soapy water and pat dry with a clean cloth.
  5. Close the sore or fissure with medical tape, an adhesive bandage, or liquid bandage. You can buy these first-aid supplies at most pharmacies or online. Sealing the wound will help protect it from dirt and bacteria, and help the skin tissue repair itself.

If you’re on-the-go and don’t have the proper tools to clean and dress your sore, leave it open until you have access to first-aid supplies or apply lip balm or petroleum jelly on it. Closing an unclean wound with a bandage or cloth can trap dirt, bacteria, and debris, and may result in infection.

In many cases, basic first-aid techniques can prevent infection in psoriasis sores and help the wound heal faster.

If you begin to develop signs of infection, see your doctor as soon as possible. Signs of infection may include:

  • soreness
  • redness
  • swelling
  • discharge from the sore
  • fever

It’s also important to see your doctor if the wound doesn’t seem to be healing. Your doctor will be able to assess and clean your sores, and may offer any additional treatment options.

In addition to first-aid care and prescription treatments, there are a number of simple but effective ways to alleviate the discomfort associated with psoriasis lesions.

Here are three easy ways to care for your skin:

  • Take a bath in lukewarm — not hot! — water to soften sores, remove excessive flakes, and moisturize your skin. Try adding soothing colloidal oatmeal, gentle, fragrance-free bath oils, or Epsom salts to your bath for added relief from itching.
  • Use ointment-based, fragrance-free moisturizers on your skin immediately after your bath or shower. This will help your skin retain its moisture.
  • Track and control your triggers and prevent lesions. If your flares are triggered by stress, for example, try exercising, meditating, or even listening to your favorite song to keep your stress under control.

Remember: Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference when it comes to the health of your skin.

Preventing psoriasis plaques — and avoiding the triggers that cause them — is the most effective way to keep your skin healthy, comfortable, and lesion-free. But what actually leads to the development of psoriasis lesions?

It’s widely accepted that psoriasis has a genetic component. In fact, the “psoriasis gene” is more prevalent than you may think. About 10 percent of people in the general population have a predisposition to psoriasis, but only 2 to 3 percent actually develop the condition.

Here’s why: In order for psoriasis to manifest, the gene has to be triggered by certain environmental factors, also known as triggers.

Although psoriasis triggers are different for everyone, some common triggers for flare-ups include:

  • Strep throat. Guttate psoriasis, a type of psoriasis that resembles polka dots on the skin, has been linked to strep throat infections in early childhood.
  • Injury to the skin. Even minor injuries, like sunburn, can irritate the skin and cause lesions to develop at the site.
  • Allergies. Common allergens like dust, pollen, pet hair and dander, mold, and grass can trigger a psoriasis flare.
  • Stress. An extremely common trigger for psoriasis, stress has also been linked to body-wide inflammation and other chronic conditions.

Tracking and understanding your psoriasis triggers can help you actively avoid them, and prevent the formation of plaques.

An open wound or fissure in the skin can be painful, and for some people, a source of worry. With the proper care and first-aid techniques, it’s possible to reduce the risk of infection and help your skin heal.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about any skin concerns, especially open wounds. If you’re experiencing fissures or open sores on a regular basis, your doctor may consider different treatment options to ensure your condition is managed most effectively.