What causes polygonal papules and plaques and how to treat them?

Symptom Database

Polygonal papules and plaques are a type of skin disorder that can cause significant discomfort and distress. Understanding the causes of these skin abnormalities and knowing how to treat them is essential for anyone experiencing this condition. In this article, we will explore the various factors that contribute to the development of polygonal papules and plaques and discuss effective treatment options.

What are Polygonal Papules and Plaques?

Polygonal papules and plaques are a type of skin condition characterized by the presence of raised, reddish or purple-colored patches on the skin. These patches often have a polygonal or angular shape, hence the name. The affected areas may be itchy, scaly, or have a rough texture.

Causes of Polygonal Papules and Plaques

Skin Inflammation

One of the primary causes of polygonal papules and plaques is skin inflammation. Inflammation can occur due to various factors, including allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders, or infections. When the skin becomes inflamed, it can lead to the formation of papules and plaques.

Dermatological Conditions

Several dermatological conditions can contribute to the development of polygonal papules and plaques. These include:

  • Lichen planus: A chronic inflammatory condition that affects the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Pityriasis rosea: A common skin rash characterized by oval-shaped patches.
  • Psoriasis: A chronic autoimmune disease that causes the rapid buildup of skin cells, resulting in scaly patches.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors can also play a role in the development of polygonal papules and plaques. Certain individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing these skin abnormalities, making them more susceptible to the condition.

Treatment Options for Polygonal Papules and Plaques

Topical Medications

Topical medications are often the first line of treatment for polygonal papules and plaques. These medications are applied directly to the affected areas of the skin and can help reduce inflammation, relieve itching, and promote healing. Common topical medications include:

  • Corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce redness, itching, and swelling.
  • Topical retinoids: These medications help normalize skin cell growth and reduce inflammation.
  • Calcineurin inhibitors: These medications suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.

Oral Medications

In more severe cases, oral medications may be prescribed to manage polygonal papules and plaques. These medications work from within the body to reduce inflammation and control the immune response. Common oral medications include:

  • Corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids may be prescribed for short-term use to control inflammation.
  • Antihistamines: These medications can help relieve itching and reduce allergic reactions.
  • Immunosuppressants: These medications suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.


Phototherapy involves exposing the affected skin to specific wavelengths of light to reduce inflammation and promote healing. This treatment option is often used for individuals who do not respond well to topical or oral medications. Phototherapy can be administered in various forms, including UVB therapy and PUVA therapy.

Lifestyle Modifications

In addition to medical treatments, certain lifestyle modifications can help manage polygonal papules and plaques. These include:

  • Avoiding triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers that worsen the condition, such as certain foods or environmental factors.
  • Maintaining good skin hygiene: Keeping the affected areas clean and moisturized can help prevent further irritation.
  • Stress management: Stress can exacerbate skin conditions, so finding effective stress management techniques, such as exercise or meditation, can be beneficial.


Polygonal papules and plaques can be a distressing skin condition, but with the right treatment approach, it can be effectively managed. Understanding the causes of this condition, such as skin inflammation and dermatological conditions, is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment options. Whether through topical or oral medications, phototherapy, or lifestyle modifications, individuals can find relief from the symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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