Fall is here, and that means cooler, dryer weather. For people with psoriasis, this can be a trigger for worsening of skin symptoms like red, scaly, painful, and itchy plaques on the scalp, arms, torso, legs and even genitalia. Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce common psoriasis triggers.
Why is it important to reduce psoriasis triggers, outside of the obvious discomfort of symptoms?
Dr. William T. Ko, board certified dermatologist at Arizona Dermatology, says, “What a lot of people forget is that since psoriasis is not just a dermatologic disorder, but rather a systemic autoimmune disease, these immune cells are also capable of attacking the joints, leading to destructive disease that can affect the ability to ambulate or even to perform everyday activities, and certainly affect individuals’ quality of life.”
Psoriasis Triggers and How to Reduce Them
While triggers vary from person to person, some common psoriasis triggers include:
Weather. Cold, dry weather and indoor heating can cause seasonal flare-ups in individuals with psoriasis. What can you do? Moisturize your skin. Use a humidifier in your bedroom at night. Wear soft cotton against your skin and bundle up when outdoors.
Stress. Stress increases cortisol levels in the body, causing inflammation. Because psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition, these increased levels can result in psoriasis flare-ups. What can you do? Do your best to manage stress in your life. If stress levels are high, try relaxation techniques, hypnosis, biofeedback, or behavioral and cognitive stress management therapies, all of which have been shown to be effective in people with psoriasis.
Illness or infection. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, anything that impacts your immunity, including illness or infection, can trigger a flare-up. What can you do? Stay away from people who are ill and protect yourself while in high-risk places. It is especially important to avoid contracting strep throat, which is linked to psoriasis flare-ups.
Certain Medications. Some medications that tend to cause psoriasis flare-ups include beta blockers, lithium, and antimalarial drugs. What can you do? Talk to your doctor about any prescribed medications and what impact they might have on your psoriasis.
Skin injury. Called a Koebner response, injured skin can often overreact in people with psoriasis, leading to inflammation, skin thickening and other symptoms. Skin injuries to look out for include cuts, burns (even sunburns), and bug bites. People with psoriasis may also react badly to intentional skin damage like tattoos, piercings, or surgical cuts. What can you do? Wear sunscreen and bug spray as conditions require. Take extra care when shaving. Avoid getting tattoos or piercings, especially if you have active flares.
Hormone changes. Puberty, pregnancy, and other periods of fluctuating hormones may result in a flare-up of psoriasis. What can you do? If you suspect hormone changes may be making your psoriasis worse, talk to your dermatologist.
Reducing psoriasis triggers can not only keep you more comfortable, it can help prevent the disease from taking a toll on your entire body. At Arizona Dermatology, our board certified dermatologists stay active in the field of psoriasis research, making us the most knowledgeable providers in the state.
“We’re very fortunate that we can treat most forms of psoriasis with topical steroids—vitamin A, vitamin D derivatives,” Dr. Ko says. “When the psoriasis becomes more significant, more symptomatic, more painful, more itchy, systemic options come into play.”
These systemic options include phototherapy, including Arizona Oncology’s narrow-band UVB laser, as well as oral drugs and biologic drugs.
“The beauty of these systemic drugs is that they can be target-specific and address the parts of the immune system that are causing psoriasis. In doing so, they help to not only reduce the skin symptoms but also disease activity with the joints, and possibly reduce the long term risk of heart attack and stroke that can be induced by chronic inflammation in psoriatic patients,” Dr. Ko adds.
If you have psoriasis, make an appointment with Arizona Dermatology today.