Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that can produce itchy, scaly, discolored patches on skin. Drinking alcohol may make the condition worse and trigger flares, which are then harder to treat.

Psoriasis affects more than 7.5 million adults in the United States. It typically occurs when the body produces skin cells too rapidly, creating “plaques” on its surface. These thick, raised patches are most often found on the scalp, back, elbows, knees, trunk, and feet. Many people with psoriasis also experience joint issues.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, up to 90% of people who have psoriasis develop plaques, which can be painful and itchy. These are usually covered by “scales,” or skin flakes made up of older cells. (See less common types of psoriasis here.)

Plaques may look different depending on a person’s skin tone, reports the AAD. On lighter skin, they may appear pink or red, and on medium skin, salmon-colored (both tend to have white or silvery scales). On darker skin, plaques can appear to be violet or dark brown (with gray scales).

While the specific cause of psoriasis isn’t known, drinking alcohol has a palpable, or noticeable, effect on the condition.

Consuming alcohol in even small amounts can:

  • impact how well psoriasis treatment works
  • increase the harmful and serious side effects of some psoriasis medications, especially in pregnant people
  • make psoriasis worse or trigger a flare
  • decrease the likelihood of remission from psoriasis
  • make it more difficult to follow a treatment plan
  • reduce immunity and alter the immune system, increasing the risk of infection
  • increase the odds of developing liver disease

Let’s take a closer look at the ways in which alcohol affects psoriasis.

Research has shown that people living with psoriasis are twice as likely to develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as people who do not have the condition.

If you have NAFLD, you are also at greater risk of the condition progressing into a serious liver disease.

Anyone living with psoriasis should limit or exclude alcohol from their diets. This may help reduce the liver damage or decrease the severity of NAFLD.

There is a clear connection between alcoholism, or alcohol misuse, and psoriasis. Many times, depression, a condition that research suggests is intimately connected to psoriasis, triggers alcohol misuse.

Alcohol misuse can trigger psoriasis outbreaks as well as other skin problems like rosacea and acne.

Ways that alcohol can negatively affect psoriasis include:

  • causing dangerous interactions with some psoriasis drugs such as methotrexate
  • increasing a person’s risk of liver damage and disease
  • increasing the severity of psoriasis symptoms
  • making psoriasis flares more frequent

According to research published in 2017, people with psoriasis have a 60% greater risk of dying from alcohol-related causes than people who do not have psoriasis.

Research around psoriasis and alcohol mainly focuses on the amount of the beverage consumed and not the specific type. Any type of alcoholic drink can be consumed to excess, which can worsen psoriasis.

The type also does not matter when it comes to alcohol being mixed with psoriasis medications and treatment. Some medications have warnings urging users to avoid drinking alcohol of any kind while taking them.

Anyone who drinks alcohol and lives with psoriasis should speak with a healthcare professional. They can determine whether there’s a safe amount of alcohol that can be consumed without it affecting the condition or its treatment.

People who feel depressed and those who are drinking excessively should contact a healthcare professional immediately, whether or not it is psoriasis-related. Treatment plans can help with either condition.

There are three primary ways to treat psoriasis flares (and prevent new ones):

Healthcare professionals may recommend focusing on one treatment at a time or combining treatments. It may take some time to find the right treatment or combination that works best.

There is currently no cure for psoriasis, but there are several effective treatments. These treatments may help manage or reduce flares. They can also minimize the appearance of psoriasis on the skin and even send psoriasis into remission.

Decreasing or eliminating alcohol consumption can help lessen the severity of psoriasis. It may also make treatment more effective.

People living with psoriasis should speak with a healthcare professional about their alcohol intake.