In continuation of our most recent topic on Psoriasis Basics, here is the third article in our series.
Although the cause of a particular outbreak may not be known, some common psoriasis triggers have been identified, including:
- Infection, such as strep throat or staphylococcus (including MRSA)
- Medications, including lithium, beta blockers, and anti-malarial drugs
- Skin injury, including bruises, chafing from tight clothing, shaving, tattoos, vaccinations, or sunburn
- Other skin conditions, such as scabies, blisters, boils, and dermatitis
- Weather that dries the skin, such as cold winter days and indoor heating or cooling
- Hormones, such as the surges that occur after puberty and during pregnancy
- Smoking and excessive drinking
- Other medical conditions that are under poor control, such as diabetes or obesity
Psoriasis Skin Care and Flare Prevention
These steps can ease the discomfort of psoriasis and help minimize flare-ups:
- Identify and avoid triggers. If you're not sure exactly what your triggers are, consider keeping a diary for a couple months.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Because heavy drinking can trigger psoriasis and interfere with certain medications (methotrexate and others), use alcohol in moderation, or avoid it altogether.
- Take care of your skin.
- Moisturizers help lock in your skin's own moisture. Use them regularly, particularly after bathing.
- Avoid scratching itchy skin. Cold compresses, topical steroids, menthol-based ointments, and oatmeal baths can curb the itch.
- Bathe in warm (not hot) water, keep showers or baths short, and use fragrance-free cleansers. Gently pat-dry skin instead of rubbing it.
- Do not pick at lesions.
- Protect your skin from the sun during PUVA therapy or if you're taking retinoids (Soriatane(r) or Tazorac(r)).
- Choose cotton clothing over synthetic materials, which can irritate or overheat the skin.
- Protect your skin in the winter. Step up moisturizing efforts and use a humidifier.
Take care of your whole self. To keep your immune system calm and less likely to trigger skin cell overgrowth, follow the basics of good health.
Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, maintain an exercise regimen appropriate to your overall health and drink plenty of water. Importantly, avoid cigarette smoking, which can be a psoriasis trigger and overall health hazard. If you have known health issues, such as diabetes, do your best to keep them under control.
Reduce stress. Stress is a trigger for many people with psoriasis. While there's no way to eliminate stress altogether, there are many ways to manage it, such as meditation, counseling, or exercise. For managing the stress of psoriasis itself, consider joining a support group. As always, if you have any specific physical conditions that behave as outlined over the past three posts, please call our office for an appointment right away and we will be glad to evaluate it for you.
By: Jonathan S. Weiss, M.D.