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Psoriasis Symptoms and Triggers

Knowing the ins and outs of your psoriasis may ease flare-ups and even prevent them. Once you recognize what triggers your symptoms, you can get more control.


What Are the Symptoms?

  • Patches of red, inflamed skin. These are often covered with loose, silvery scales. They may be itchy and painful, even crack and bleed. In serious cases, they grow and run into each other, making large areas of irritated skin.
  • Fingernail and toenail problems. Your nails may change color or become pitted. They may also begin to crumble or detach from the nail bed.
  • Scalp problems. Patches of scales or crust may form on your head.

What Causes Flare-ups?

Every person with this condition has their own triggers. Things that cause your psoriasis to become active may not affect another person.

If you find out what causes your skin to flare up, you will be better able to control your symptoms.

Psoriasis is an immune system problem. Certain triggers may make your symptoms worse. They include:

  • Cold, dry weather. Any climate that relieves dry skin will help. Try to spend some time in warm sunny weather and high humidity.
  • Stress. Keep calm and try to stay relaxed. Outbreaks are more likely to pop up when you are anxious.
  • Some medicines. These include some ”beta-blocker” drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease; lithium, a treatment for bipolar disorder; and pills taken to treat malaria. Tell your doctor if you have psoriasis and are being treated for any of these conditions.
  • Infections. There is a short list of infections including strep throat and tonsillitis that can trigger a special kind of psoriasis outbreak. It looks like small drops that show up mainly on your torso and limbs. HIV infection can also make it worse.
  • Skin Injury. In some people, the tiniest cuts, bruises, and burns can cause an outbreak. Even tattoos and bug bites might trigger a new lesion. You can wear gloves or put on an extra layer of clothes to avoid a break in your skin.
  • Alcohol. Drinking, especially heavy drinking in young men, may trigger or worsen symptoms and interfere with treatments. Combining certain psoriasis medications with alcohol can have dangerous side effects, especially for women in their child-bearing years.
  • Smoking. Using tobacco or being around second hand smoke raises your risk of getting psoriasis and makes existing conditions worse.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on November 02, 2015
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