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Psoriasis: Treatment and Tips During the Holidays

The holidays bring joy, but also cold weather and stress.
By Hilary Parker
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

’Tis the season for good cheer, good friends, good food … and, if you have psoriasis, a good chance that your skin condition will worsen.

Unfortunately, the holidays can be hard on psoriasis sufferers. Stress, cold weather, overindulgence, and winter viruses can make psoriasis symptoms worse. But the right psoriasis treatment and lifestyle tips can help.

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The Link Between Psoriasis and Stress

There are some lucky souls who don’t find the holidays stressful. But, for the majority of people, the pressure to get everything done (the baking, the shopping, the office party, …) and keep everyone happy (is Aunt Sue still not speaking to Cousin Annie?) are notorious stress triggers.

“There are some patients, undoubtedly, in whom stress plays a role in worsening psoriasis,” says Mark Lebwohl, the chair of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine of New York University. “Stress exists all year long, but it can be exacerbated for some people by the holidays in the winter.”

Evidence suggests that particularly stressful times may cause a psoriasis flare for the first time or worsen symptoms for some people who already suffer from the condition.

And, of course, having psoriasis itself can add to your stress level, between the physical discomfort of your skin lesions and concern about camouflaging your condition or handling people’s remarks or stares.

Ease Psoriasis Symptoms With Stress Reduction

The good news is that there are steps you can take (that don’t include hibernating through the holiday season), to control your stress levels, which may improve your psoriasis symptoms.

The medical establishment is increasingly accepting of stress-reduction therapies that may be beneficial components of your psoriasis treatment plan.

  • For example, you may want to treat yourself to a massage or two (put a few sessions with a masseuse on your holiday wish list). The stimulation of your muscles may alleviate tension and also help minimize the pain of your psoriasis. If you have psoriatic arthritis, a painful condition experienced by 30% of people with psoriasis, massage therapy may also address some of the joint problems you experience. 
  • Other options to help ease psoriasis and stress include biofeedback, yoga, and meditation, all of which may offer you some much-needed relaxation and symptom relief.

Evidence suggests that mind-body techniques such as these are most effective when used in conjunction with conventional medical therapies, including topical or systemic medications.

For example, one study found that psoriasis patients who meditated during phototherapy, a procedure that uses ultraviolet light to address psoriasis skin lesions, healed faster than those who were treated with phototherapy alone

Psoriasis Holiday Tips: Be Moderate In Your Merriness

Perhaps you have a lot to toast this season with champagne, or maybe Uncle Eddie’s eggnog goes down really easily. Despite the temptation, it’s in your best interest to avoid going overboard with holiday indulgence.

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