When you have psoriasis, there are certain things, events, or conditions that can make the disease flare up or cause your symptoms to worsen. These are called triggers. You can get a better handle on staying well if you find out what your triggers are and how to manage them. Not everyone has the same triggers. Some, though, are common.
Scientists don't know exactly what causes psoriasis. They think your immune system plays a role. Mental strain is known to affect your immune system. So it's no surprise that stress can make psoriasis worse.
Here are some things you can try to help manage stress:
- Meditation. This is a mental exercise during which you focus on something, like your breathing, to calm your mind.
- Exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins. These brain chemicals boost your mood and energy.
- Help from others. You could take a stress management course. Or you could join a support group for people who have psoriasis.
These can lead to psoriasis lesions in places you haven't had them before. This is called Koebner phenomenon. Examples of injuries that might cause a flare include:
- Bug bites
You can do some things to protect your skin:
- Use sunscreen. Short periods of time in the sun can help psoriasis, but it's important not to get too much.
- Treat any skin irritation right away.
- Don't scratch or pick at your skin.
Several drugs can cause psoriasis flares in some people. They include:
- Lithium, commonly used to treat bipolar disorder
- Medicines for malaria (The reaction usually happens 2 to 3 weeks after you take one.)
- Inderal, a medicine used to control high blood pressure
- Quinidine, a heart medication
- Indomethacin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used for arthritis
When you get a new prescription, make sure your doctor knows you have psoriasis and ask if the medicine is safe for you. Tell your primary doctor about everything you take, including over-the-counter medicines.
If something affects your immune system, it can trigger your psoriasis. Strep throat, for instance, is linked to the condition. Bronchitis, tonsillitis, or an ear infection also can make it worse.
Cold can dry out your skin and make your psoriasis worse. To help protect your skin, you might:
- Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves when you go out
- Moisturize your skin more often
- Use a cool mist humidifier at night
- Skip the hot shower and have a soak in the tub instead
Studies show that smoking and drinking alcohol can make psoriasis worse. And alcohol can be dangerous if you take certain drugs for the condition.
- If you smoke, stop.
- If you drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
- Follow warnings about mixing your medicine with alcohol.
Mayo Clinic: "Psoriasis."
United Kingdom National Health Service: "Psoriasis."
National Psoriasis Foundation: "Causes and Triggers."
American Academy of Dermatology: "Psoriasis."
Cleveland Clinic: "What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out?"
National Psoriasis Foundation: "Managing Itch."
Journal of Medicine and Life, 2014.
The American Journal of Pathology, April 2008.
Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: "Psoriasis and the Sun."
Monroe Clinic: "Psoriasis."
National Psoriasis Foundation: "How Cigarettes and Alcohol Affect Psoriasis."