Psoriasis is a common, non-contagious skin condition believed to be an immune response causing increased production of new skin cells. A patient’s skin accumulates dead cells on the skin’s surface because the skin is unable to shed old skin cells quickly enough.
At this time, there is no cure for psoriasis. Still, many advanced and effective treatments have made an enormous difference for patients as well as suggestions on how to avoid triggers that can lead to symptom flare-ups. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis.
Psoriasis symptoms and treatment options with Jennifer Whaley, NP
Symptoms vary from person to person and by psoriasis type, and can be mild or severe. Symptoms can occur anywhere; however, they are often found on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp and include:
- Itchy, red, scaly patches on the skin
- Dry or cracked skin
- Skin tenderness or pain
- Joint pain (psoriatic arthritis)
- Thick or ridged nails
Psoriasis triggers can lead to flare-ups, prompting an increase or onset of symptoms that vary for each person. We can help you identify your triggers and learn how to manage them to help keep your symptoms in control. While many things can cause a flare, here are the most common:
Dry, cold weather
A drop in temperature or humidity can dry the skin, leading to irritation and worsening of symptoms.
- Limit bathing to 10 minutes and use warm rather than hot water.
- Moisturize to keep the skin hydrated.
- Stay warm and remove cold, wet clothing as soon as possible.
Sunshine and warm weather
Sunburn and air conditioning can stress the skin.
- Use a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
- If you do get a sunburn, avoid scratching the skin.
- If you spend time in air conditioning, apply moisturizer after bathing and throughout the day.
Stress can cause inflammation that may trigger an immune response.
- Use stress-management techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation and support groups.
- If you feel stressed, take a deep breath, hold it and exhale slowly.
Certain medications may trigger a flare-up, sometimes several weeks after starting the new regimen.
- Before starting a new medicine, ask your physician if it could cause a psoriasis flare.
- Don’t stop taking medication without first talking with your physician.
Cuts, scrapes, scratches, bruises or insect bites can cause psoriasis to worsen.
- Treat a skin injury quickly and do not scratch the skin.
- Apply moisturizer and gel before shaving to reduce nicks.
- Use insect repellent and consider staying indoors when bugs are most active (dusk and dawn).
Psoriasis can flare two to six weeks after strep throat, an earache, bronchitis or other infection, especially in children.
- Treat the infection to lessen or clear psoriasis symptoms.
Research suggests smokers are more likely to have psoriasis, and non-smokers may become more responsive to psoriasis treatment.
- Stop smoking.
- Before trying a nicotine patch, ask your dermatologist if it could trigger your psoriasis.
- Avoid being around people who are smoking.
Too much alcohol can cause symptoms to worsen and negatively impact psoriasis treatments. It can also cause potentially dangerous interactions with some medications.
- The American Heart Association recommends men limit alcohol to one to two glasses per day and one glass for women.
In the past decade, many more treatment options have become available. Your Dermatology Associates & Surgical Center team can recommend the use of topical creams, oral prescription medications or even biologics to help you find relief.