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Severe Psoriasis: Managing a Flare-Up

Overview

Highlights

  1. During a flare-up, try heavy creams or ointments that lock in water.
  2. Avoid using shampoos containing fragrance and alcohol.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a decrease in inflammation.

Taking your medication as directed by your doctor is the first step in preventing psoriasis flare-ups. But you can do other things to minimize symptoms and get relief quickly.

Keep your skin moisturized

Keeping your skin lubricated can go a long way in preventing or worsening dry, itchy skin caused by a psoriasis flare-up. It can also help reduce redness and heal the skin, making your flare-up easier to manage.

The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends using heavy creams or ointments that lock in water. Look for moisturizers that are fragrance-free or alcohol-free. Fragrances and alcohol can actually dry out the skin. You can use cooking oils or shortening to keep your skin moisturized if you’re looking for a natural or cost-effective solution. When in doubt, ask your dermatologist for a recommendation.

Take shorter showers with lukewarm water to help protect your skin’s moisture. Be sure to use fragrance-free soaps. Always apply moisturizer after showering or washing your face and/or hands.

Add oil to bath water if you prefer taking baths, or are looking to soothe dry, itchy skin. Soaking in Epsom or Dead Sea salts is recommended for itchy skin. Be sure to limit your bath time to 15 minutes and moisturize immediately afterwards.

Try putting your creams or moisturizers in the refrigerator. This can help soothe the burning sensation that often accompanies the itching during a flare-up.

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Stay on top of scalp irritation and itching

Try to resist the urge to scratch or rub your scalp during a flare-up. Doing so can cause bleeding, scabbing, and even hair loss.

Avoid using shampoos containing fragrance and alcohol. These products can dry out the scalp, and worsen or even cause more flare-ups. When washing your hair, be gentle and avoid scratching or scrubbing the scalp.

A scale softener that contains salicylic acid can help soften and loosen patches of psoriasis plaque during a flare-up.

Avoid stress

Stress causes flare-ups because your body copes with stress through inflammation. The immune systems of people with psoriasis release too many of the chemicals that are released during an infection or injury.

Speak to your doctor if your psoriasis is causing you stress and anxiety. They may be able to offer suggestions for coping with stress. Or, they can refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker.

Practicing meditation or yoga, exercising, or spending time doing things you enjoy can also reduce your stress levels. You may find it helpful to connect with others who have psoriasis. Check with your local hospital for a psoriasis support group or search online for one in your area.

Eat a nutritious diet

Researchers haven’t found a link confirming diet and psoriasis. However, evidence suggests that what you eat increases the risk of psoriasis and impacts how well those with psoriasis respond to treatment.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology reported that a higher body mass index (BMI) made psoriasis treatments less effective. A more recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that overweight or obese patients experienced a reduction in the severity of their psoriasis with diet and exercise. This suggests that eating a healthy diet that encourages weight loss could help reduce the severity of flare-ups.

Nutritional supplements or foods containing omega-3 fatty acids may also help with your psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a decrease in inflammation.

Some sources of omega-3 include:

  • fish oil supplements
  • fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines
  • nuts and seeds
  • soy
  • vegetable oils

Speak with your doctor before increasing the amount of fish oil in your diet. High amounts may thin the blood and aren’t recommended for those taking blood thinners.

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