You can reduce flare-ups by learning the triggers that make your psoriasis worse. Follow these tips to help manage them and keep your skin condition under control.
This is one of the most common triggers, says Colby Evans, MD, a dermatologist and chair-elect of the board of directors of the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Stress makes your body go into a protective mode. It reacts by sending chemicals that cause inflammation, which leads to flare-ups.
What you can do. Try exercise, yoga, or massage, Evans suggests, or take up hobbies you enjoy. They can help ease your stress. So can relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, focused breathing, and mindfulness meditation.
Talk to a therapist or stress management counselor to get other ideas.
"When the weather is colder and drier, psoriasis tends to flare," Evans says.
Most people find their skin is better in the summer and worse in the winter. That's probably due to the lack of sun in the winter, says Mark Lebwohl, MD, chairman of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
What you can do. Try using a moisturizer, Lebwohl suggests. A cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom can also help.
Many psoriasis treatment centers have phototherapy units, or you can get one for your home. They mimic sunlight and can help ease your psoriasis symptoms. Talk to your doctor to see if it's the right treatment for you.
Some drugs can trigger psoriasis flares, like those used to treat high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, and other conditions.
What you can do. "It is important to let any doctor who is prescribing you medication know that you have psoriasis," Evans says.
Sometimes your doctor may be able to prescribe another drug that doesn't lead to flare-ups. Or he may be able to reduce the dose of your medicine.
Cuts and Bruises
If your skin is cut or injured, you may get a psoriasis flare in that area. Your doctor may call this the "Koebner phenomenon."
What you can do. Cut back on activities where you know that a part of your body is likely to be rubbed against or get hurt, Lebwohl says.
If you have a skin injury and notice a flare-up developing in that area, treat it right away.
Some infections, such as strep throat, can trigger psoriasis.
An earache, bronchitis, or a respiratory infection can also be the cause. People who have recurring tonsillitis also seem to have more flares, Lebwohl says.
What you can do. If you have tonsillitis often, getting your tonsils removed may help. It doesn't prevent psoriasis, but it may help treat it. But this hasn't been scientifically proven, and not all doctors agree, Lebwohl says.
If you have strep throat, it's important to treat it. If you have a flare-up of psoriasis but don't have symptoms of strep, ask your doctor for a throat culture. It's possible to have strep even without any symptoms.
Drinking alcohol may make your psoriasis worse. It may also interfere with your treatment. There's a link between binge drinking and psoriasis, Lebwohl says, but it's not clear why.
Drinking a lot can prevent your medication from working. It can also make it hard to get your psoriasis under control.
What you can do. Check with your doctor to make sure alcohol doesn't interfere with your treatment. If you drink, don't overdo it. Try to limit it to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Smoking may make your psoriasis worse and make it harder to get it under control.
What you can do. If you smoke, try to cut back or quit. Talk to your doctor about ways to break the habit.