Psoriasis, a chronic skin condition affecting about 8 million people in the U.S., is characterized by scaly patches of skin (plaques) that can itch or burn. These plaques are usually found on the scalp, elbows, and knees. Plaques appear during flare-ups (which can last for several weeks or even months) and clear during periods of remission. Psoriasis symptoms such as scaling, itching, and pain can significantly compromise your quality of life if the symptoms are severe or not managed well. And 1 in 3 people with psoriasis will go on to develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a form of inflammatory arthritis that causes swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. While there is no cure for psoriasis or PsA, it is possible to greatly reduce symptoms through treatments such as topical and biologic medications. In addition to prescribed treatments, lifestyle habits such as avoiding triggers, eating right, and lowering stress may also help you manage psoriasis on a daily basis.
Certain environmental conditions as well as your own behaviors can sometimes result in psoriasis flareups, but you can help minimize flareups by avoiding triggers. Avoid activities that might result in damage to your skin such as scrapes, cuts, and bruises, and sunburn. Sunburn has been shown to exacerbate existing psoriasis and stimulate the formation of new psoriasis. Colder days can mean drier, itchier skin, and more plaques. In cold weather, try to keep your skin covered and warm. Avoid being too close to heat sources that may be drying to your skin, such as fireplaces and space heaters. Although it might be hard to resist, try not to scratch plaques when they itch. Better ways of managing itching include moisturizing your skin every day with lotions or creams, applying cold compresses, and using your medications as prescribed.
Eating healthfully can be helpful in managing psoriasis symptoms. Research has shown that a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish oil, and extra-virgin olive oil may reduce the number of flareups in cases of severe psoriasis. If you’re one of the 30 percent of people with psoriasis who also have PsA, a psoriatic arthritis diet based on whole, fresh foods may be effective in minimizing flareups. Some people with psoriatic arthritis find certain trigger foods worsen their symptoms. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods and eliminating alcohol, unhealthy fats, and refined sugars from your diet may help lessen symptoms.
Lower Your Stress Levels
Psychological stress commonly results in new flareups or worsening of existing symptoms. States of stress cause the body to release certain chemicals that can escalate inflammation. Targeting stress is a critical component of any treatment regimen for psoriasis. Avoiding stress through relaxation practices may improve symptoms. You may find that approaches such as exercise, yoga, and meditation are helpful for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Seeking out emotional and psychological support by talking with a mental health counselor, using cognitive stress management therapies, or joining a support group can also help in the management of your psoriasis and lead to a healthier, more well-balanced life. This article was written by Stew Ellington References:
- Psoriasis — Mayo Clinic
- About Psoriasis — National Psoriasis Foundation
- Psoriatic Arthritis Diet: The Ultimate Guide — MyHealthTeams
- Psoriasis: Tips for Managing — American Academy of Dermatology
- Association Between Mediterranean Anti-inflammatory Dietary Profile and Severity of Psoriasis — JAMA Dermatology
- Psychosomatic paradigms in psoriasis: Psoriasis, stress and mental health — National Center for Biotechnology Information