When you have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, certain triggers can set off a flare. They’re different for each person. Things that set off your symptoms may not affect someone else.
Sometimes, triggers are clear. For example, you may always have a flare after cutting your skin or having a stressful week. But they can also be tricky to spot. In some cases, it can take up to 6 weeks for you to have a flare after a trigger. By then, you may not remember the exact cause.
Tracking your psoriatic disease can help you pinpoint your triggers. By knowing them, you can learn to avoid or manage them. This helps you better control your disease and have fewer flares. It can also help your doctor create the treatment plan that’s best for you.
Keep a Daily Symptom Journal
Write in a symptom journal daily. Recording your habits and symptoms can help you spot patterns in your disease. You can use a notebook or diary. There are also websites and apps made for tracking psoriatic disease symptoms. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
At the end of every day, take note of your disease. Snap a photo of any symptoms that you can see, so you can show it to the doctor at your next appointment. You should also answer these questions in your symptom journal:
- Signs. What does each symptom look like, and how does it feel? How long has it lasted?
- Location. Where are the symptoms on your body? If you have skin lesions, how big is each one? If you have swollen joints, how large is the swelling?
- Severity. How serious is each symptom on a scale of 1 to 10?
- Overall symptoms. Is your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis mild, moderate, or severe? Does it feel different than usual?
Describe Things That Might Be Triggers
Writing down your daily habits can help you connect the dots between your triggers and flares. Pay attention to these common triggers. Although not all of them are scientifically proven, people with a psoriatic disease say they cause flares:
- Emotional stress. It’s one of the most common triggers for psoriatic diseases. Experts suspect your immune system may overreact to stress, which leads to symptoms.
- Alcohol. Binge drinking or having two or more drinks a day can cause flares and change the way certain psoriatic disease medicines work.
- Cigarette smoke. Puffing on cigarettes or being around other people who smoke may lead to a flare.
- Skin or joint injuries. This includes cuts, bruises, scrapes, bug bites, tattoos, sunburns, piercings, and poison ivy or oak rashes. After 10 to 14 days, your symptoms may get worse in the area near or around the area.
- Cold weather. A drop in temperature, humidity, and sunlight may affect your skin and joints. Plus, dry, heated air may also set the stage for a flare.
- Infections. Two to 6 weeks after an infection, such as strep throat, bronchitis, or an earache, you may develop a flare.
- Medications. Some treatments may trigger a flare. They include certain blood pressure drugs, lithium, anti-malarial medicines, and some arthritis treatments.
- Allergies. Seasonal allergies may touch off symptoms.
- Diet. Some people with psoriatic disease say certain foods and ingredients, such as gluten, make their symptoms worse. Not getting enough vitamin D may also be a culprit.
In your symptom journal, jot down your stress level and the weather. You should also note any of the above triggers.
Update Your Treatments
In your daily journal entry, you should also describe any changes in your medicines, treatments, or home care routine. This can help your doctor rule out other reasons for your flare. It can also help them make sure your treatments are working. Some psoriasis medicines can stop being as effective over time.
Sit Down With Your Doctor
When looking at your symptom journal, you may be able to notice patterns in your habits and flares. You should also review it with your doctor. They can help find your triggers and make sure your treatments are working. They can also suggest ways you can manage your triggers. For example, if you learn that dry air or dry weather causes a flare, you may need to moisturize your skin. This may mean running a humidifier and applying lotion more often.