Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition marked by itchiness, redness, dryness, and often a flaky and scaly appearance. This disease doesn’t have a cure and develops when an overactive immune system causes faster than normal cell growth. For people living with psoriasis, new skin cells surface every three to four days (as opposed to every 28 to 30 days for everyone else).
Psoriasis can be emotional and stressful for sufferers, especially when the disease is widespread and covers large areas of the body. If you know someone living with it, your support and encouragement can make a world of difference. If you don’t know much about this condition, you may wonder how to offer support. Although your loved ones will appreciate any effort you make, here’s a look at six specific ways to help those living with psoriasis.
1. Learn about the disease
Psoriasis is often misunderstood. If you don’t know much about the condition, you could make inaccurate assumptions or comments. Misguided advice and insensitive remarks are frustrating for those living with psoriasis, and can make them feel worse about their condition. Maybe you think psoriasis is contagious, so you keep your distance to avoid contracting the illness. By researching the disease, however, you’ll learn that it’s an autoimmune disease that can’t be passed from person to person.
The more you understand, the easier it will be to offer practical assistance and help sufferers cope with flare-ups. People living with psoriasis need a strong support network. They may not want to discuss their disease 24/7, but may welcome your questions when asked in an appropriate setting. Still, don’t bombard them with questions. It’s your responsibility to do your own research.
2. Don’t stare at their skin
Psoriasis flare-ups vary from person to person, and the severity of the disease can range from mild to severe. Some people living with psoriasis only develop symptoms on areas of the body easily hidden from sight. Therefore, the disease may not have an overt social or emotional impact on them. Others have a more severe case, and psoriasis may cover a greater portion of their body.
To support someone living with this disease, make a conscious effort not to stare at their skin. The more you do, the more distressing the disease becomes for them, especially if they’re already self-conscious. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel if all eyes were on your skin during a flare-up?
Educate your children about this skin disease too. Talk about the condition and explain that it’s not contagious. This is important if your child has a friend or relative with the disease. Also, teach children not to stare or make comments about dry patches or scaly skin.
3. Encourage outdoor activity
Sunlight, in limited doses, can soothe psoriasis symptoms. For that matter, spending time outdoors can help someone living with this disease. Rather than sit in the house, encourage outdoor activity on a sunny day. Suggest going for a walk together, a hike, or a bike ride. Outdoor activity not only provides a healthy dose of natural vitamin D, it can take someone’s mind off the disease, strengthen their immune system, and boost their energy level.
4. Get medically involved
You can’t make another person seek help for their psoriasis, but you can encourage treatment. While you shouldn’t nag or be pushy, it’s OK to share remedies or information you find on relieving symptoms. Be discerning and avoid overstepping boundaries or providing too much unsolicited advice. Make sure any advice you give comes from a reputable source, and encourage the person to speak with their doctor before experimenting with natural remedies or herbal supplements.
Getting medically involved also includes offering to accompany them on doctor appointments. Your attendance can be a source of emotional support, plus it’s an opportunity for you to learn about psoriasis treatments, side effects, and possible complications.
5. Reduce stressors
Different factors can trigger a psoriasis flare-up, including cold temperatures, smoking, sunburn, and certain medications. Stress is also a known trigger. We all deal with everyday stressors. But if possible, look for ways to reduce stressors in a loved one’s life.
Do they seem overwhelmed or on the verge of burnout? If so, offer a helping hand and let them relax and clear their mind. This can decrease their stress level and prevent or shorten the duration of a flare-up. Think of other ways to provide practical assistance. For example, offer to help around the home, run errands, or watch their kids for a few hours each week. You can also encourage stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.
6. Listen to their concerns
Even though you want to offer support, you may be uncomfortable bringing up the topic of psoriasis, especially if you don’t know how they’ll respond. This is perfectly normal. There are hundreds of other topics you can talk about, and psoriasis doesn’t have to be one. If you don’t know what to say, or if you fear saying the wrong thing, talk about something else. If they bring up the disease, then provide a listening ear. Even if you can’t give advice, they’ll often appreciate patient listening as much as anything else. Sometimes people with psoriasis just need to talk. With that said, you might suggest attending a local support group with them as well.
There’s no cure for psoriasis. Since this is a lifelong condition, those diagnosed with it may endure flare-ups throughout their life. It’s unpredictable and frustrating, but your support and kind words can make it easier for someone to cope.
Valencia Higuera is a freelance writer who develops high-quality content for personal finance and health publications. She has more than a decade of professional writing experience, and has written for several reputable online outlets: GOBankingRates, Money Crashers, Investopedia, The Huffington Post, MSN.com, Healthline, and ZocDoc. Valencia has a B.A in English from Old Dominion University and currently resides in Chesapeake, Virginia. When she isn’t reading or writing, she enjoys volunteering, traveling, and spending time outdoors. You can follow her on Twitter: @vapahi