Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease caused by an immune system error that makes your skin cells grow much faster than normal. Rather than forming normally over the course of a week, new skin cells form in a matter of days.
When these extra cells pile up on the surface of your skin, they form raised, scaly patches that become thicker and scalier as more skin cells continue to accumulate. Psoriasis patches can be dry, itchy, sore, and persistent, but they’re not contagious. And while the condition itself can’t be cured, it can be kept under control with the right approach.
To manage psoriasis effectively, it’s important to determine any specific factors that might trigger a flare-up or make an existing outbreak worse. Although psoriasis triggers vary from person to person, avoiding or minimizing some of the most common triggers — until you figure out which ones are truly problematic for you — is an ideal way to prevent an uncomfortable flare-up.
If your psoriasis seems to erupt for no apparent reason, here are a few things you can try to keep your condition under control.
If your psoriasis tends to get worse following a traumatic event or during a particularly demanding time in your life, you’re not alone — uncontrolled stress is one of the most common psoriasis triggers.
To minimize the impact of this powerful trigger, it’s important to find concrete ways to keep stress at bay and manage it when it arrives. Practicing yoga, meditation, and daily gratitude can help make your daily life more relaxed while learning how to pause and breathe deeply and slowly can help ease stress in the moment.
Because psoriasis is essentially the overgrowth of skin cells, it makes sense that flare-ups often occur following routine skin injuries. Treating cuts, scrapes, burns, and other minor skin injuries as soon as possible helps calm the area, control the skin renewal process, and reduce your risk of an outbreak.
Because continuous scratching can lead to a psoriasis flare-up, it’s a good idea to avoid anything that can leave you feeling itchy, including bug bites, contact with poison ivy or poison oak, and soaps and detergents that are too harsh or irritating for your skin.
If you happen to get a bug bite that leaves your skin feeling irritated, calm the itch with a psoriasis-friendly topical treatment and avoid scratching the area. It’s also a good idea to use insect repellant and stay indoors in the early morning and late evening hours when mosquitos and other biting bugs are most active.
Besides feeling generally itchy and irritated, dry skin is far more likely to experience a psoriasis flare-up than skin that’s well-hydrated and moisturized. To avoid dry skin, drink enough fluids to keep your body and your skin properly hydrated, and apply moisturizer throughout the day whenever your skin starts to feel dry.
It’s also helpful to limit your showers to no more than 10 minutes, using a moisturizing cleanser (instead of soap) and warm (not hot) water to bathe yourself. Use a fragrance-free moisturizing ointment or cream (not a lotion) to help seal in moisture following each shower or bath.
At first glance, it may seem confusing that psoriasis flare-ups are just as common in the cold winter months as they are in the summertime. But while these seasons may be opposite in nature, they’re equally likely to bring days of extreme weather.
In the summer, it’s important to use sunscreen rated SPF-30 or higher whenever you have to spend time in the sun, as sunburned skin is more likely to experience a psoriasis flare-up.
It’s just as important to protect your skin from extreme winter weather by wearing proper gear that keeps you covered and warm and removing wet clothing and boots as soon as you come in from the cold.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are two of the most common psoriasis triggers. Binge drinking one night a week or drinking two or more alcoholic beverages a day can render your psoriasis treatment totally ineffective while smoking or being around people who smoke can lead to sudden flare-ups.
If you’d like to explore all the ways you can keep your psoriasis under control and prevent unexpected flare-ups, our team at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery is ready to help. Call our nearest office in Manhattan, Hampton Bays, Commack, Plainview, or Smithtown, New York, or use the easy online tool to schedule an appointment with one of our top-rated dermatologists.