As Cool Winds Blow, Psoriasis Flares
When the fall season approaches, this skin disorder can worsen. Here's how to cope.
Stressful Seasons for Psoriasis
Although psoriasis is believed to be the result of an immune system malfunction, Lebwohl says there have also been a number of genes identified with this condition. And like most genetic conditions, he tells WebMD that there is also a unique, genetically determined time frame in which psoriasis is triggered into action, and it's different for everybody who has it. Still, he says, something does have to act as the initial trigger, and often, that "something" is stress.
Indeed, in a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 1988, doctors from the Baylor College of Medicine concluded that stress can not only trigger a psoriasis flare-up, but in some instances it may also play a significant role in the initial onset of the condition.
Since the fall season frequently kicks off an activity-packed school year -- stressful for parents as well as students -- it's not hard to see why this time of year can make psoriasis worse. Toss in a stress-filled holiday season, and some psoriasis patients can suffer well into the New Year.
But doctors say you can head off the effects of stress by engaging in some form of relaxation beginning at the start of the fall season. The Baylor research notes that several studies found hypnosis and biofeedback are effective stress reducers in some people with psoriasis.
And in at least one study published in a Swedish dermatology journal, doctors from McGill University in Quebec found that both meditation and guided imagery were effective relaxation methods in reducing psoriasis symptoms. Lebwohl reports that in another study, patients undergoing UV light therapy who practiced guided imagery -- imagining their psoriasis being healed -- experienced a quicker remission than those undergoing UV therapy alone.
Indeed, Moore tells WebMD that anything that helps you relax -- including meditative yoga, vigorous exercise, acupuncture, or even just taking time out of your day to listen to a favorite CD or drift away with a great novel -- can help keep your psoriasis under control, particularly during a stressful season. Remember that these techniques work best with traditional medical therapy instead of alone.
Eat, Drink, Be Merry -- but Don't Overdo
When it comes to diet and psoriasis, most speculation has surrounded foods high in essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s -- abundant in fish, flaxseed, and some vegetables. But while some studies have found these foods helpful for a number of inflammatory immune disorders, at least some doctors are convinced that help doesn't extend to psoriasis.
"I don't buy it," says Strober, who says there is no convincing evidence that any foods play a role in either helping or harming psoriasis.
Lebwohl agrees: "There were some preliminary data in open trials suggesting eating more fish might be effective ... but in the end it was found not to help at all," he says.