11 Aug Psoriasis Triggers and Avoiding Flare-Ups
Psoriasis is common, affecting about 125 million people worldwide. While it’s not entirely understood, medical experts believe psoriasis is an immune response. The immune system causes skin cells to regenerate quicker than usual. There is no cure, but there are ways to avoid psoriasis triggers and avoid symptom flare-ups. We’ve gathered some common triggers and treatment options that may help control symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Different types of psoriasis have different symptoms. Read our psoriasis post to learn more about different types of psoriasis. Even people with the same type of psoriasis may experience different symptoms. This may also depend on the severity. Most often, symptoms are found on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp and include:
- Itchy, red, scaly patches on skin
- Thick or ridged nails
- Dry or cracked skin
- Skin tenderness or pain
- Joint pain (psoriatic arthritis)
Psoriasis triggers are things that can lead to flare-ups. Flare-ups can include an increase or onset of symptoms. Along with different symptoms, people may also have different triggers. Avoiding triggers is key to keeping your psoriasis symptoms in control. While many things can cause a flare-up, here are some of the most common.
Cold, dry weather can dry out skin, which can lead to irritation. This irritation can cause flare-ups and worsen existing symptoms. To avoid this trigger, limit your shower time and temperature – no matter how good a long, hot shower may seem during cold weather. Be sure to stay moisturized to keep the skin hydrated. Finally, stay warm when in cold weather and remove any cold, wet clothing as soon as possible.
Research suggests that those who smoke are more likely to have psoriasis. Not only that, those who quit smoking may become more responsive to treatment. It can be difficult to stop smoking; be sure to talk with your dermatologist or primary care provider for support and resources.
Most of us know that stress is not good for our bodies. It can affect heart health, increase anxiety and more. But did you know stress can also cause psoriasis flare-ups? Stress can cause inflammation that may trigger an immune response. To control psoriasis caused by stress, try practicing stress management. This can include exercise, healthy living, meditation and breathing exercises. Be sure to talk with your primary care provider if you feel stress is affecting your everyday life and work.
Excessive alcohol consumption can trigger symptoms. Sometimes, this is a result of co-existing conditions like anxiety and depression that also may cause flare-ups. But too much alcohol can also cause symptoms to worsen. Also, alcohol may negatively impact psoriasis treatments. It can also cause potentially dangerous interactions with some medications. The American Heart Association recommends men limit alcohol to one to two glasses per day and one glass for women.
Sunburn and/or injury
When you have a skin injury, your psoriasis may worsen. This is called the Koebner phenomenon. Though it’s not well-understood, research suggests that it is a common occurrence. Skin injuries can be minor, like from cutting yourself shaving, or major injuries. If you have a skin injury, treat it quickly and avoid infection. Be sure to seek medical attention for severe injuries. Sunburn can also cause flare-ups. To avoid sunburn, wear SPF and protect your skin from the sun. If you do get a sunburn or skin injury, avoid scratching at skin.
Some illnesses can also trigger psoriasis symptoms. One of the most common is strep throat. This can trigger Guttate psoriasis in children and young adults. Streptococcus (strep throat) can cause an immune reaction that triggers psoriasis. While this is not as common as other types of psoriasis, it much more common in children and those under thirty.
Some medications may also trigger psoriasis flare-ups. This will depend on your body’s reaction to medication. It’s important that you don’t stop taking medication without first talking with your doctor.
While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are treatments to help you control symptoms. The goal of psoriasis treatment is to manage flare-ups and slow cell production. Here are some of the most common treatments:
- Topical corticosteroids are not recommended for long-term use. But some corticosteroids hydrocortisone, triamcinolone and clobetasol can help control itching and burning.
- Injections can help control symptoms. Steroid injections may control small, localized patches of psoriasis. Intravenous biologics like etanercept (Enbrel), infliximab (Remicade) or adalimumab (Humira) may help more severe cases.
- Oral medications such as methotrexate, retinoids or cyclosporine may help control symptoms for mild or moderate cases.
- Light therapy (phototherapy) is often one of the first treatment options for moderate or severe cases. It works by exposing the skin to UV light to reduce inflammation and slow cell reproduction.
Control your psoriasis and avoid triggers
Psoriasis flare-ups can disrupt your everyday life. Those with severe psoriasis may have pain and swelling that can hinder normal activities. While there’s no cure, avoiding triggers and working on a treatment plan with your dermatologist may help control symptoms.
In addition, psoriasis research trials may be beneficial for qualified patients. Learn more about our research trials at Rivergate Dermatology Clinical Research Center.
At Loven Dermatology, we are passionate about providing our patients with high-quality, individualized dermatological care and treatment. Our providers offer advanced, personalized care for a wide range of hair, skin and nail conditions. Please call us at 615.859.7546 for more information or to schedule your appointment.