More than 8 million people in the United States and over 125 million people worldwide are living with psoriasis.
People with psoriasis have overactive immune systems, which causes your skin cells to grow and multiply quickly. The extra cells build up on the surface of your skin and cause itchy, painful, and scaly patches.
The itchiness can be debilitating at times, and you may find your symptoms unpleasant and embarrassing. Nearly two-thirds of people with psoriasis say their condition is a major problem in their everyday life.
Let’s face it, a psoriasis diagnosis means that you’ll need to change up your lifestyle to combat your symptoms.
Keep reading to find out what you can expect to change in your day-to-day life in order to manage this chronic disease and live the life you want.
Psoriasis symptoms can be different for everyone. In general, though, you’ll likely experience:
- red patches on your skin covered with silvery thick scales; the patches can cover small spots or large areas
- itchiness, pain, or burning
- dry, cracked skin
- thickened, pitted, or ridged nails
Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes swollen, painful, and stiff joints.
Skin care is an essential part of your daily routine after a psoriasis diagnosis. You’ll need to switch to mild soaps and cleansers and invest in a few good moisturizers.
Here’s what to look for in products for psoriasis:
- soaps that are hypoallergenic, alcohol-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free
- thick or oily lotions or moisturizers, such as petroleum jelly or shea butter
- unscented lotions containing ceramides
- coconut or avocado oil
- capsaicin cream
- aloe vera
- for scalp psoriasis, a medicated shampoo or an over-the-counter product containing salicylic acid or coal tar
If you’re not sure if a particular skin care product is good for your skin, you can check to see if it has the National Psoriasis Foundation’s “Seal of Recognition.”
It’s important that you wear light and loose clothing that won’t irritate your skin. Choose gentle fabrics, such as cotton, silk, and cashmere. Avoid fabrics like wool, which can be scratchy and irritating to your skin.
If you’re wearing a dress but want to cover up the lesions on your legs, consider wearing tights. Try different colored tights to add flare to your outfit.
You can also wear scarves and gloves to help you cover your patches. Lighter colors are a good choice if your skin is flaking.
Following a healthy diet is important for anyone. But eating nutritious foods is even more important for people trying to manage psoriasis symptoms.
There’s no specific diet for people with psoriasis. Consider adding in foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially those considered anti-inflammatory, such as:
- lean proteins that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and albacore tuna
- plant sources of omega-3s like walnuts, flax seeds, and soybeans
- colorful fruits and vegetables, like carrots, spinach, beets, squash, strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, and apples
- nuts and seeds
Establishing a daily routine is crucial. If you have psoriasis, incorporate some of these behaviors into your daily routine:
- exercise, such as cycling, walking, hiking, or swimming
- take a cold shower or a 15-minute bath with warm (not hot) water, and include Epsom salt, colloidal oatmeal, or olive oil
- moisturize regularly throughout the day and immediately after bathing or showering
- apply sunscreen before you go outside
- drink plenty of water throughout the day
- incorporate stress relief techniques, like yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises
- keep track of your medications, symptoms, and triggers by writing them down in a journal or using a smartphone application
- get plenty of sleep
- use a humidifier to keep the air in your home from getting too dry
- take dietary supplements or herbal supplements that reduce inflammation, such as fish oil, vitamin D, milk thistle, aloe vera, turmeric, and Oregon grape
If you’re considering taking any supplements, make sure to talk to your doctor first. Some supplements may interact with your medications.
It’s essential to avoid anything that can trigger a psoriasis flare-up or worsen your skin symptoms.
If you have psoriasis, take steps to remove the following from your everyday life:
- processed foods
- foods high in saturated fats like red meats and dairy
- foods containing gluten, like bread and baked goods
- soaps containing sulfates
- lotions or other skin products containing alcohol (look for ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, and methanol on the label)
- clothing that irritates your skin, such as wool
- excessive sun exposure
- tanning beds
- tight clothing and high heels
Of course, you can’t avoid all psoriasis triggers. Illness, injuries, cold and dry weather, and stress aren’t always preventable. Being mindful of how these factors affect your symptoms can help you adjust your routine as needed.
Support groups can help you reduce stress and also provide you with practical tips and tricks for managing psoriasis.
See your doctor if your symptoms worsen or your joints begin to hurt. Your doctor may need to change your medication or prescribe a combination of medications to manage your symptoms.
It’s essential that you communicate your symptoms to your doctor. Try to be as specific as possible about your symptoms, including if and how psoriasis is affecting your emotional health.
To treat psoriasis, your doctor will likely start with a milder treatment option, such as light therapy or a prescription topical cream.
They’ll then progress to systemic medications if these treatments don’t work well enough.
For mild to moderate psoriasis, treatment may include:
- light therapy
- vitamin D creams, such as calcipotriene (Dovonex, Sorilux)
- steroid creams
- calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus
- coal tar
- topical or oral retinoids
- prescription medicated shampoos
To treat moderate to severe psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe:
- oral medications, like cyclosporine, methotrexate, or apremilast (Otezla)
- biologics, such as ixekizumab (Taltz) or guselkumab (Tremfya)
When you live with psoriasis, it’s important to inform yourself about what to include and avoid in your daily routine.
Managing psoriasis can be tricky and will take some trial and error. But if you keep track of your triggers and treatments, you’ll eventually find a routine that works for you.