When you have psoriasis, certain things called triggers can make the condition flare up and your symptoms worse. You can get a better handle on staying well if you find and manage your triggers.

Not everyone has the same triggers. Some, though, are common.

Stress

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.

Skin Injuries

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:

  • Sunburn
  • Cuts
  • Bug bites
  • Acupuncture
  • Tattoos

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.

Medications

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.

Infections

If something affects your immune system, that can trigger your psoriasis. Strep throat, for instance, is linked to the condition. Bronchitis, tonsillitis, or an ear infection also can make it worse.

Winter

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

Your Lifestyle

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.

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