Psoriasis flare-ups can cause painful, itchy patches of scaly skin. If you have psoriasis, knowing what can trigger a flare-up may help you manage your condition to help keep your skin healthy.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the skin. Normally, the immune system helps defend the body against germs that can make us sick. But when the immune system malfunctions, it can attack healthy cells instead.
People with psoriasis develop skin plaques which are itchy, thick patches of skin. Plaques may look sore and red or may look like white scales.
Psoriasis can also lead to dry patches of skin that may bleed, stiff or swollen joints, and thick or ridged fingernails or toenails.
Psoriasis symptoms often come and go seemingly at random. But there are things you can watch out for to reduce the likelihood of a flare-up.
Be aware of these psoriasis triggers and avoid them:
1) Dry skin
Cold, dry weather can lead to dry skin and may make symptoms worse. If you can’t escape a cold or dry climate, be sure to use lots of moisturizers on your skin. A humidifier in the house can also help keep your skin moist.
2) Skin damage
Your skin may be extra-sensitive to any kind of bump or cut. Take care when trimming your fingernails that you don’t break the skin, and be careful when shaving.
Avoid deliberate skin damage such as acupuncture, tattoos or piercings, as well as wearing clothing that rubs on your skin. Be sure to wear gloves when working in the yard, and use bug spray to protect against insect bites.
Stress may trigger a psoriasis flare-up. And if you are worried about a flare-up, you may feel even more stressed. So try to limit stressors in your life and consider yoga, meditation and other techniques to keep your stress levels at a minimum.
Drugs that affect your body’s immune response may act as triggers for your psoriasis. Examples include beta-blockers for high blood pressure, lithium for mental disorders and anti-malaria drugs.
Be sure to remind your doctor that you have psoriasis whenever you discuss a new medication.
The connection is not clear, but some people with psoriasis see increased skin symptoms if they have more than one or two drinks a day.
Alcohol may also interact with some medications prescribed to control psoriasis. Check with your doctor before you drink alcohol.
A little bit of sun is good for your skin. Research shows that the ultraviolet light in sunshine can slow the growth of skin cells. But be careful you don’t get too much sun.
A sunburn can be a psoriasis trigger as well as increasing your risk for skin cancer. Some psoriasis medications may make your skin more sensitive to sun damage.
A simple cold or sore throat that activates your immune system can also trigger a psoriasis flare-up. This is particularly true if you have strep throat.
So if you tend to get strep or have a lot of sore throats, don’t try to wait them out. Talk to you doctor to see if you should take antibiotics.
Some studies show that being overweight or obese may contribute to psoriasis flare-ups. Be sure to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, and eat a healthy diet to help keep your psoriasis under control.
Some people find that avoiding certain foods, especially those that cause inflammation, also helps them avoid flare-ups.
Psoriasis may clear up for months or even years, or may follow a cycles of flare-ups that vary depending on the season or other factors.
If you have questions about psoriasis or what you can do to protect your skin, talk to your health care provider.
Reviewed August 12, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
10 Psoriasis Triggers to Avoid. HealthLine. Web. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
What Is Psoriasis? Everyday Health. Cathy Cassata. Web. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
10 Ways to Prevent Psoriasis Flare-Ups. WebMD. Web. Retrieved August 8, 2016.