Can Scratches Become Flares? | MyPsoriasisTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyPsoriasisTeam
Powered By
See answer

Can Scratches Become Flares?

Medically reviewed by Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Updated on March 18, 2021

Do your scratches, sunburns, insect bites, or tattoos become scaly patches after they’ve healed? For some people with psoriasis, skin injury can cause psoriasis symptoms in the affected area. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon, and it occurs in about 25 percent of people with psoriasis. It also induces multiple types of psoriasis.

“I get psoriasis wherever I cut myself,” reported one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “Ingrown hair, scrapes, or pimples all become new plaque psoriasis spots on me,” shared another.

What Is the Koebner Phenomenon?

The Koebner phenomenon is the appearance of new psoriasis lesions on previously unaffected areas of skin. A psoriasis flare will develop where the skin has been injured, whether through a scratch, burn, tattoo, or bug bite. The Koebner phenomenon is often referred to as Koebnerizing or Koebnerization.

“Once the skin heals, a new patch [of psoriasis] will usually arrive in its place,” explained one member.

Read: Tools and tips to stay on track with psoriasis treatments

Flare-ups can occur in areas not typically prone to common triggers, some members say: “My psoriasis appears in some unusual places, all of which are areas of repeated pressure. I also get rashes where my lip and nose are pierced.” “Tongue, too,” shared one member.

Other forms of skin irritation can lead to Koebner flare-ups as well. Recent case reports from during the COVID-19 pandemic document that wearing face masks can trigger the Koebner phenomenon. A MyPsoriasisTeam member reported experiencing Koebnerization from hair removal. “My mistake was waxing — psoriasis pops up anywhere the skin has been injured. I should have known better. Now I’m stuck with awful-looking legs.”

What Causes the Koebner Phenomenon?

It is well known that psoriasis is caused in part by a misfiring of the immune system, and immune cells and skin cells can both factor into the formation of psoriatic lesions. It is not fully understood why flare-ups happen after an injury, however.

During the past several years, a great deal of research has expanded our knowledge of psoriasis and the Koebner phenomenon, with much of this research focusing on molecules involved in inflammation, including molecules called IL-17, IL-6, and CCL20.

IL-17 (IL stands for interleukin) is known to be one of the key molecules that drives psoriasis. IL‐17 starts the process of wound repair that leads to the build-up of excess skin layers in psoriasis. Medications that inhibit IL-17 — such as the biologics secukinumab (Cosentyx) and ixekizumab (Taltz) — have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat moderate to severe psoriasis.

A protein similar to IL-17, called IL-6, has long been associated with psoriasis. One study looking at IL-6 and the Koebner phenomenon showed an increase of IL-6 in skin cells from people who had a Koebner response compared to those who had no response. Tocilizumab (Actemra) is an IL-6 inhibitor approved by the FDA for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and it has also been reported to improve symptoms of palmoplantar pustular psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Another important molecule thought to be responsible for the Koebner phenomenon is CCL20, which is a signaling protein. It recruits a special type of immune cell called a T cell. One study shows that damaged skin cells make more CCL20. In 2020, researchers discovered the molecules that help turn on CCL20 in skin cells.

These are just a few of the studies that have been done to determine how molecules of the autoimmune response cause the Koebner phenomenon. Studies like these are exciting because they provide the basis for expanding treatments.

Treatments for Skin Injuries With Psoriasis Flare-Ups

Koebner lesions from scratches and other skin injuries are treated the same as regular psoriasis plaques. Treatments include:

Because Koebnerized skin can crack, bleed, and lead to infection, it’s important to treat the area as soon as possible.

Here are some tips for preventing or managing skin injuries and lesions:

  • Avoid bruising or cutting your skin.
  • Clean and cover any wounds or scratches to prevent infection.
  • Protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunscreen.
  • Prevent dry skin with lotions and moisturizing creams, and use a humidifier in dry, cold weather.
  • Don’t touch, pick, or scratch lesions.
  • Follow your prescribed psoriasis treatment.

Consult your doctor for medical advice before starting any new treatment.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 108,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Are your psoriasis flares sensitive to scratches on your skin? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

References
Updated on March 18, 2021
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Erik Linklater, Ph.D. has a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Colorado, where he is currently a postdoctoral researcher. Learn more about him here.

Related Articles

“Hormone imbalances cause my psoriasis to flare up,” wrote one MyPsoriasisTeam member. Another sa...

Psoriasis and Hormones: How Hormonal Changes Can Affect You

“Hormone imbalances cause my psoriasis to flare up,” wrote one MyPsoriasisTeam member. Another sa...
Itch is one of the most distressing symptoms of plaque psoriasis, the most common form of psorias...

Psoriasis and Itching: 4 Ways To Manage the Itch

Itch is one of the most distressing symptoms of plaque psoriasis, the most common form of psorias...
“I feel exhausted during the day, especially after work, and take a nap. Then, I can’t sleep at n...

6 Causes of Psoriatic Arthritis Fatigue — and 6 Ways To Manage It

“I feel exhausted during the day, especially after work, and take a nap. Then, I can’t sleep at n...
Stick to your treatment plan as a first line of defense against psoriasis flare-ups.A symptom dia...

Preventing Psoriasis Flare-Ups: Your Guide

Stick to your treatment plan as a first line of defense against psoriasis flare-ups.A symptom dia...
Stress can contribute to worse psoriatic arthritis (PsA) symptoms.Stress-management techniques ma...

5 Tips for Reducing Stress With Psoriatic Arthritis

Stress can contribute to worse psoriatic arthritis (PsA) symptoms.Stress-management techniques ma...
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects approximately one-thir...

Quiz: Are Your Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms Worsening?

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects approximately one-thir...

Recent Articles

Autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and thyroid eye disease (TED) occur when a person’s immune ...

Psoriasis and Thyroid Eye Disease: What You Should Know

Autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and thyroid eye disease (TED) occur when a person’s immune ...
MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...

Crisis Resources

MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...
Dermatologists often prescribe steroid treatments — also called corticosteroids — for psoriasis b...

Fluocinonide for Psoriasis: Can It Help With Itching and Swelling?

Dermatologists often prescribe steroid treatments — also called corticosteroids — for psoriasis b...
4 Early Signs of Psoriatic Arthritis​​​​​1:21This video highlights some early signs of psoriatic...

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms (VIDEO)

4 Early Signs of Psoriatic Arthritis​​​​​1:21This video highlights some early signs of psoriatic...
If your finger ever gets stuck in one position and you can’t move it, you might have a condition ...

Psoriatic Arthritis and Trigger Finger: Causes and Symptoms

If your finger ever gets stuck in one position and you can’t move it, you might have a condition ...
Clothes shopping can be tricky, especially when you have psoriasis. In addition to your personal ...

Clothing for Psoriasis: What To Know About Fabrics and Sleeves

Clothes shopping can be tricky, especially when you have psoriasis. In addition to your personal ...
MyPsoriasisTeam My psoriasis Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close