Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes inflammation and itchy, scaly patches of raised or thickened skin lesions. It is an autoimmune disorder that actually begins inside the immune system but is visible on the surface of your skin. Psoriasis affects the T cells in your immune system, which is a type of white blood cell that fights off foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. While typically, T cells are responsible for protecting the body, but in people with psoriasis, they start to work against the body itself, setting off various other immune responses that cause the symptoms of psoriasis. The symptoms of psoriasis tend to come and go. There are various triggers that people with psoriasis need to avoid if they want to prevent a flare-up or a worsening of their symptoms. Here are some of the common psoriasis triggers you should avoid.
Overview of Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the surface of the skin. According to estimates by the National Psoriasis Foundation, more than eight million people in the United States are affected by psoriasis. (1) Even though the condition affects the surface of the skin, it actually begins deep inside your immune system. It stems from the T cells, which are a type of white blood cell that helps protect your body from foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. (2) Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, the body’s immune system itself starts attacking the body. In people with psoriasis, the T cells become hyperactive and, as a result, sets off other immune responses that cause the symptoms of psoriasis. (3,4)
The common symptoms of psoriasis include:
- Red, itchy, scaly patches of thickened or raised skin
- Dry and cracked patches that tend to bleed from time to time
- Pitted, ridged, or thickened nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
Psoriasis symptoms vary from person to person and can range from being mild to severe.
Common Psoriasis Triggers You Should Avoid
The exact cause of psoriasis remains unknown, but it is believed to affect those adults more who have a family history of this skin condition. Psoriasis is believed to have a genetic link. (5)
The symptoms of psoriasis tend to come and go, but there are various triggers that tend to cause flare-ups of the symptoms of psoriasis. People with psoriasis should make an effort to avoid these triggers. Here are some common psoriasis triggers you should avoid:
Alcohol is a common trigger of psoriasis. A study carried out by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that there was an increase in cases of psoriasis in women who drank non-light beer. This increase was related to those who had two to three drinks in a week. (6)
Even though there is no research to show any evidence for dietary triggers, the National Psoriasis Foundation has found that people with psoriasis should try and avoid having citrus fruits, gluten, while milk, and fatty foods. (7)
Stress can cause many types of diseases, and the same is valid for psoriasis. Stress has been found to be a major trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. (8) While it is understandable that in today’s world, it is difficult to live without stress, but nevertheless, you must make an attempt to decrease stress in your life. Meditation practices, yoga, reading, listening to music, and even taking a walk in nature have been found to relieve stress and provide relief from many forms of pain.
Excessive Sun Exposure
People with psoriasis should avoid being in the sun for too long as it may lead to a major flare-up. While some amount of sun exposure can help alleviate the symptoms in some people with psoriasis, but getting a sunburn is likely to cause a flare-up. However, you should only stay in the sun for some time if you have found that it helps your symptoms. Otherwise, it is best to avoid overexposure to the sun.
Dry and Cold Weather
Dry and cold weather is known to worsen the symptoms of psoriasis. In such weather, the skin loses moisture, and in the cold weather, the use of heating units can further exacerbate the symptoms of psoriasis. This is why you should avoid spending too much time in front of heating units during winters. Also, think about buying a good humidifier for your home to add moisture in the room.
Being Overweight Or Obese
Being overweight or obese is known to increase the risk of developing psoriasis, and if you already have the condition, then it can further aggravate your symptoms. A 2013 study published in JAMA Dermatology discovered a trend that showed following a low-calorie diet could benefit people with psoriasis. (11)
Certain common infections such as thrush (caused by Candida albicans), upper respiratory tract infections, and strep throat (caused by Streptococcal pharyngitis) can be a trigger for psoriasis flare-up or outbreak. If you have psoriasis and you suspect that you have caught any of the infections as mentioned earlier, then you should seek prompt treatment and let your doctor know to avoid an outbreak of psoriasis. (12)
Certain medications are known to interfere and disrupt the body’s autoimmune response. This can lead to a severe flare-up of psoriasis. These medications can include beta-blockers that are used to control high blood pressure, pills for stopping malaria, and steroidal drugs. If you have psoriasis, you should let your doctor know before they prescribe any of these medications. (13)
Skin Injury or Scratches
If you suffer a cut or scrape, or if you get a bug bite or experience any type of skin injury, you might notice the appearance of new psoriasis lesions or patches near the affected part. These types of skin injuries can occur even when you are doing day to day activities such as shaving, gardening, or cooking. If you have psoriasis, you must take extra precautions while doing such activities.
While there is no way to completely prevent an outbreak of psoriasis by avoiding these known triggers, by taking extra precautions, you can prevent a flare-up as much as possible. While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are various treatments that can help you manage the symptoms of psoriasis and improve the quality of your life. These treatments can help suppress your immune system, help decrease the inflammation and reduce the speed of new skin cell turnover, and also soothe your skin. Medical experts continue to study the triggers for psoriasis and the different treatments. Understanding your triggers can help you better manage your symptoms and also prevent flare-ups.
- Psoriasis.org. 2020. What Is Psoriasis? – About Psoriasis. [online] Available at: <https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis> [Accessed 16 August 2020].
- Cdc.gov. 2020. Psoriasis | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/psoriasis/index.htm> [Accessed 16 August 2020].
- 2020. [online] Available at: <https://health.usnews.com/conditions/skin-disease/scalp-psoriasis> [Accessed 16 August 2020].
- Parrish, L., 2012. Psoriasis: symptoms, treatments and its impact on quality of life. British Journal of Community Nursing, 17(11), pp.524-528. Liu, Y., Krueger, J.G. and Bowcock, A.M., 2007. Psoriasis: genetic associations and immune system changes. Genes & Immunity, 8(1), pp.1-12.
- Qureshi, A.A., Dominguez, P.L., Choi, H.K., Han, J. and Curhan, G., 2010. Alcohol intake and risk of incident psoriasis in US women: a prospective study. Archives of dermatology, 146(12), pp.1364-1369.
- Psoriasis.org. 2020. Page Not Found. [online] Available at: <https://www.psoriasis.org/user/108780> [Accessed 16 August 2020].
- Seville, R.H., 1977. Psoriasis and stress. British Journal of Dermatology, 97(3), pp.297-302.
- Armstrong, A.W., Harskamp, C.T., Dhillon, J.S. and Armstrong, E.J., 2014. Psoriasis and smoking: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. British journal of dermatology, 170(2), pp.304-314.
- Naldi, L., Peli, L. and Parazzini, F., 1999. Association of early-stage psoriasis with smoking and male alcohol consumption: evidence from an Italian case-control study. Archives of Dermatology, 135(12), pp.1479-1484.
- Jensen, P., Zachariae, C., Christensen, R., Geiker, N.R., Schaadt, B.K., Stender, S., Hansen, P.R., Astrup, A. and Skov, L., 2013. Effect of weight loss on the severity of psoriasis: a randomized clinical study. JAMA dermatology, 149(7), pp.795-801.
- Gudjonsson, J.E., Thorarinsson, A.M., Sigurgeirsson, B., Kristinsson, K.G. and Valdimarsson, H., 2003. Streptococcal throat infections and exacerbation of chronic plaque psoriasis: a prospective study. British journal of dermatology, 149(3), pp.530-534.
- Lebwohl, M. and Ali, S., 2001. Treatment of psoriasis. Part 2. Systemic therapies. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 45(5), pp.649-664.
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