There is, unfortunately, no magic formula when it comes to your psoriasis. What may cause one person’s condition to worsen, may not affect another.
That said, psoriasis is caused by more than just genetic factors. Environmental triggers can also have a big impact on the day-to-day symptoms of your condition. In this article, we'll cover some common environmental triggers that it’s helpful to know about and stay on top of to make sure you live as comfortably and flare-up-free as possible. Let’s take a look at what they are, and what you can do about them.
You might notice some improvements to your skin over the warmer summer months. But when autumn sets in, it’s important to shake up your skincare routine to minimise the risk of flare ups. When the weather becomes colder humidity in the air decreases, making it much easier for moisture to leave the skin. The more that moisture is able to leave the skin, the drier, thicker and more inflamed your skin tends to become. This is why autumn and winter time can be trickier times of year if you have psoriasis.
When the weather changes, prevention is essential. Set yourself up for the drying winter months with an emollient therapy routine. It might sound complicated, but emollient therapy is just another way of referring to a combination of products that work together to calm, soften and hydrate very dry skin.
Psoriasis-skin-friendly moisturisers, creams and ointments will help to restore your skin’s natural moisture balance, whilst boosting your skin’s protective barrier so that it can protect itself from the stresses of daily life.
Have you ever noticed that your psoriasis seems to flare up around the site of even the smallest cuts and scratches? This is because of the Koebner Phenomenon, which affects 1 in 4 people with psoriasis.
Doctors aren’t exactly sure what makes your skin respond to an injury with plaques, but you might find that even the smallest pin-prick or insect bite can cause new instances of raised, red, scaly or itchy skin to appear - especially during the wintertime when your skin is naturally drier.
It’s important to be aware that flare ups caused by the Koebner Phenomenon can also occur if you get a sunburn, tattoo, vaccinations or acupuncture, so don’t be alarmed if new plaques appear unexpectedly.
If you have a flare up brought on by the Koebner phenomenon, treat the new plaques just as you would any other on your body. If you are on topical steroids, consider complementing your daily routine with an intensive, fatty emollient to give your skin extra support to get the flare up under control.
When your body is under any form of physical or mental stress it responds by sending out chemicals that cause inflammation. Normally this is done to help heal a wound, but in people with an autoimmune disease like psoriasis, the body sends out too many chemicals which can aggravate the condition of your skin.
Physical and mental stress can be indirectly brought on by a number of things, for example, not getting enough sleep, smoking, or excessive alcohol intake.
Try to eat well-balanced meals; get plenty of sleep; reduce your workload; exercise regularly; and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation. And remember to reach out to those around you, or a medical professional, if the stress you are under feels unmanageable.
For some people, certain medications such as beta blockers, lithium (used to treat some psychiatric conditions), indomethacin (used as an anti-inflammatory treatment for arthritis), digoxin (a heart medication) and antimalarials can cause psoriasis to flare.
If you experience a worsening of your symptoms after taking a new medication, speak to your doctor who may be able to prescribe you an alternative.
Fat cells produce inflammatory molecules (if you want to get your science on, they’re called adipokines), which produce a similar inflammatory response to psoriasis. So as your weight increases, the degree of inflammation in your body also increases, which explains why some studies show that the severity of psoriasis to be closely linked to weight. A study from 2009 showed that each unit increase in BMI was associated with a 9% increase in the risk of a person getting psoriasis, and a 7% risk of increased severity.
Keep your weight at a healthy range to avoid any flare ups to your condition. This will not only help to keep your psoriasis manageable, but will also reduce your risk from a number of other conditions including heart disease and diabetes, which are more frequent in people with psoriasis.
Sadly, any infection that affects or stresses the immune system can worsen psoriasis.
In particular, streptococcus infection (strep throat) is associated with guttate psoriasis. In fact, strep throat is often one of the primary triggers for the first onset of guttate psoriasis in children.
It's not unusual for someone to have an active psoriasis flare with no strep throat symptoms, so talk with your doctor if your psoriasis flares to check that you don't have an underlying infection.
When you have an autoimmune condition like psoriasis, it’s important to give your body the love, care and attention it needs to avoid getting under the weather. Be sure to make time for yourself to relax and unwind, and take life a little more in the slow lane if you feel like you’re getting run down.