If you live with psoriasis, you know that managing flare-ups is a key part of reducing this chronic condition’s impact on your day-to-day life. It’s also important to understand any factors that might be causing your psoriasis to worsen.
Since psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, identifying what’s going on underneath your skin is the first step. Unlike some other common skin conditions, using general over-the-counter products won’t target the underlying issue.
By learning more about the deeper causes behind your flares, you may be able to identify triggers and other issues. In turn, you may have better control over your symptoms.
Sometimes, psoriasis flare-ups can be completely random. But they can also occur in response to specific triggers.
The severity of a flare-up varies from person to person. That’s why it’s helpful to find out whether you’re doing anything that may cause your psoriasis to worsen. Here are nine triggers that have been linked to flares:
- Stress. An increase in stress levels or living with ongoing, chronic stress can cause your psoriasis to flare up. Psoriasis itself can also be a source of stress.
- Cold and dry weather. When the temperature drops and the air gets dry, you may see your symptoms of psoriasis worsen.
- Trauma to the skin. According to Melanie A. Warycha, MD, FAAD, a board certified dermatologist at CareMount Medical in New York, trauma to the skin can cause your psoriasis to act up. This includes cuts, scrapes, bug bites, or a severe sunburn.
- Certain medications. If you take any medications, consider asking your doctor whether they might be worsening your psoriasis. Warycha says some medications, including beta-blockers, lithium, and antimalarial drugs, can make your psoriasis flare up.
- Weight. Gaining weight or living with obesity can cause worsening psoriasis symptoms, according to a 2019
studyin JAMA Dermatology.
- Smoking. In addition to triggering flare-ups, smoking is also known to increase the risk of developing psoriasis.
- Infections. Warycha says certain infections and health conditions can also result in psoriasis flares, notably Streptococcal infection and HIV.
- Alcohol. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to worsening of psoriasis symptoms.
- Diet. There’s been increased research looking at the role diet plays in the symptoms of psoriasis. A 2018
studyin JAMA Dermatology found that a reduction in calories in overweight people may help decrease the symptoms of psoriasis.
You can take steps to feel more in control of your condition. Some of these steps you can take at home, while others need to be supervised by your doctor.
If you’re regularly experiencing flares, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They can assess your condition and determine if your treatment plan is working effectively.
When it comes to making changes at home, these tips and lifestyle modifications are all options that you can try on your own:
Understanding your condition through self-education is a solid step toward figuring out what works for you.
“Everyone living with psoriasis should educate themselves about the causes, triggers, disease course, and treatments,” Warycha told Healthline.
To start, check out the resources offered by the National Psoriasis Foundation and The American Academy of Dermatology.
Keep skin well-hydrated
Keeping your skin well-hydrated makes a real difference. Warycha recommends a daily application of a thick cream or emollient, such as petroleum jelly. This helps to keep the skin barrier intact, making trauma to the skin less likely.
“This is important as psoriasis exhibits the Koebner phenomenon — the formation of plaque psoriasis on parts of the body you typically don’t experience lesions — meaning skin injury, including cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and even tattoos, may trigger the development of a new plaque of psoriasis at that site,” she explained.
Use a humidifier
“Using a humidifier will help maintain moisture in the skin, especially in the cold and dry winter months,” Warycha told Healthline. Consider keeping a humidifier in your bedroom to use overnight.
For an extra boost of moisture, keep a humidifier in any living space you use during the day.
Get a little sun
Exposing your skin to the UV rays from the sun can slow cell turnover. This helps to reduce scaling and inflammation, which in turn reduces the symptoms of psoriasis.
The key to this tip is to get “a little” sun. In other words, keep your exposure brief and monitor your time. Too much sun can cause sunburn and worsen psoriasis.
Also, be sure to check with your physician before exposing yourself to sunlight or UV radiation to reduce symptoms.
Maintain a healthy weight
When it comes to managing your psoriasis, Warycha says maintaining a healthy weight can help lower the levels of inflammation in the body. In addition to diet, engaging in physical activity can also help you manage your weight.
If you’re finding it challenging to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, talk to your doctor.
Avoid or limit alcohol
Drinking alcohol may impact the effectiveness of your medication. If your doctor is supervising your medical treatments, make sure to ask if or how much alcohol you can safely drink without interfering with your treatments.
Reduce your stress levels
Including daily activities that reduce stress levels may make it easier for you to manage existing flare-ups. Yoga, meditation, tai chi, breathing exercises, and physical activity can all reduce stress.
While there’s no cure for psoriasis, being proactive, avoiding triggers, and working with your doctor can go a long way toward helping you manage the symptoms.
If you have questions about your treatment plan or any of the lifestyle modifications that may improve your symptoms, talk with your doctor about the best approach for you.
A dermatologist can treat the thick, red, scaly patches of skin (also known as plaques) from psoriasis. They can also treat other parts of your body that moderate to severe psoriasis may affect, such as your scalp and nails. Consider checking with your dermatologist when you experience a flare or worsening symptoms.
Nearly a third of people with psoriasis develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis. This can cause swollen, stiff, or painful joints. A rheumatologist can determine if you have psoriatic arthritis and prescribe treatments to control your symptoms. This type of doctor specializes in treating arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders.
Psoriasis has been linked to other health conditions, such as lymphoma, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. A primary care doctor can help you find ways to reduce your risk of other conditions and improve your overall health. They can also screen you for early warning signs of psoriasis complications and refer you to a specialist, if necessary.
While psoriasis has no cure, it can be treated with a variety of prescription medications (like immunosuppressive drugs) and over-the-counter drugs (such as topical ointments). A pharmacist can provide information and tips on following your treatment plan and can make sure your medications are safe to take together. They can also answer questions or address concerns about your medications.
Stress has been shown to be a trigger for psoriasis flares. A psychologist, licensed professional counselor, or clinical social worker can help you develop personalized ways to manage stress. Self-care techniques — such as breathing exercises, journaling, meditation, yoga, and stretching — can also help you ease stress.
Cutting back on foods that trigger psoriasis flares can help reduce symptoms. A dietitian can help you develop a nutritious eating plan that may potentially reduce inflammation in the body. They can also help you maintain a healthy weight to avoid obesity and reduce your risk of psoriasis-related complications, such as diabetes and heart disease.