When you have psoriasis, you’ll experience symptom-free periods of remission, and flare-ups when symptoms return.
Since symptoms come and go, your treatment plan may be altered from time to time. Other factors may also call for a change in your medication. For instance, maybe you’ve stopped responding to your current therapy and you need to switch. Another factor can be the weather, since psoriasis symptoms can change with the seasons.
Consider the following ways that your psoriasis treatment may change over time.
Symptoms can be seasonal
While you can have psoriasis year-round, the severity of your symptoms is typically seasonal. Skin tends to prefer heat and humidity. This is especially true with psoriasis.
You can help combat excessive dryness and itchiness during colder months by switching from body lotions to creams and ointments. These create a thicker barrier against the skin to keep it from drying out. Other tips include:
- using a humidifier
- avoiding wool and synthetic fabrics
- dressing in cotton layers
- taking lukewarm baths
Once warmer, more humid weather hits, your psoriasis symptoms may not be as aggressive, but you’ll still need to take precaution to avoid flare-ups. During the spring and summer, try:
- dressing in cooler, cotton layers
- wearing sunscreen
- using bug repellant
- rinsing your skin immediately after swimming
- avoiding lotions and body washes with fragrances
Stress may be causing your flares
Stress is one of the most common psoriasis triggers. Keeping your stress levels under control is one way to decrease the severity and frequency of flare-ups.
Of course, this is often easier said than done. One trick is to think ahead and be mindful of any stressful events coming up. Try to make time for self-care and relaxation. Get a massage or meditate for 10 or 15 minutes. If you’re strapped for time and concerned you won’t be able to commit to self-care on your own, ask a friend or loved one to hold you accountable and make sure you’re taking time to decompress during the day.
Your medication may no longer be up to par
Psoriasis can be mild, moderate, or severe. The treatment your doctor recommends will be based on the severity of your condition. Also, since psoriasis can change over time, you may need to switch to a new therapy at some point even if it’s working for you now.
Topical treatments are typically used first in mild to moderate cases of psoriasis. These include corticosteroids, retinoids, or calcineurin inhibitors. Prescription moisturizers — or those containing coal tar or salicylic acid — may also be recommended to promote skin cell turnover.
If topical treatments aren’t doing enough for your symptoms, your doctor may suggest oral or injectable medications. These include biologics, retinoids, and immunosuppressants.
You may need phototherapy
You may find that being outside in warm weather helps with your psoriasis symptoms. This is because of the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.
To mimic these positive effects, your doctor might recommend phototherapy from UV treatment via sun lamps. It’s important to note that these lamps are different from the ones used in tanning beds. They’re specialized lamps that don’t contain any harmful UV rays. Phototherapy is especially helpful for more severe forms of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis.
Your doctor might also recommend adding psoralens, or PUVA therapy, to your treatment regime. Psoralens are plant-based compounds that help absorb UV rays and are thought to help aid skin absorption during psoriasis treatment.
Your diet may be affecting your symptoms
While there isn’t a particular diet proven to help psoriasis, eating eating certain foods and avoiding others can help with inflammation and may decrease the frequency of flare-ups.
Anti-inflammatory foods include fish, plant-based foods, and healthy fats such as olive oil. Foods to avoid that increase inflammation include red meat, sugar, and processed ingredients.
Illness can lead to flare-ups
Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, people with the condition are more susceptible to illnesses like the common cold or the flu. You may experience more frequent or severe flares depending on how often you get sick.
Some tips for preventing illness include:
- Avoid being around anyone who’s sick, if possible.
- Practice good hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing.
- If you’re often on the go, travel with hand sanitizer.
- Get enough sleep during flu season.
If you do get sick, give yourself enough time to recover before going back to work and resuming daily activities. After you’ve been sick, it can take some time to get your psoriasis symptoms under control. You may also need to temporarily stop taking certain drugs, such as immunosuppressants.
Also, talk to your doctor about possibly taking an antiviral drug to help prevent the flu from getting worse. They may recommend a flu shot early in the season, too.
Certain lifestyle habits can worsen your symptoms
Certain lifestyle habits can also lead to psoriasis flare-ups, such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and being inactive. If you smoke, ask your doctor for tips on how to quit for good.
Regular exercise is good for your overall health. It can also help keep inflammation down. You might be afraid to exercise at first due to the heat and sweat, but as long as you take a shower immediately after, you should be able to avoid a flare-up.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition. It’s possible to have periods of remission for years at a time, followed by severe or more frequent flares.
Because symptoms can ebb and flow, it’s important to stay on top of treatment and follow lifestyle habits to decrease inflammation. See your doctor if you’re experiencing new or worsening flares.