7 Tips for Coping With a Psoriasis Flare-up
Psoriasis takes a toll not only on your physical well-being but also on your emotional health. Flare-ups can be particularly devastating, says Jerome Shupack, MD, dermatology professor and chief of the dermatopharmacology unit at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “People say that living with psoriasis is even more difficult than living with cancer, so it’s not surprising to find flare-ups so distressing,” adds Dr. Shupack.
7 Strategies to Minimize Flares
No matter how carefully you manage your psoriasis, there may still be times when you experience flare-ups. Try these tips to help them improve more quickly and possibly prevent future flares.
1. Figure out your triggers. And then avoid them as much as possible. Research shows that there are known triggers for psoriasis flare-ups, and they can vary from person to person. Keep track of your flares by writing down when each one occurs. Include details about possible causes, such as an infection, a medication, a skin injury, stress, or the weather.
2. Get some sunshine. Sun exposure may help ease a flare because ultraviolet light seems to suppress inflammation in the skin. However, you still need to avoid getting a sunburn because sunburns can aggravate psoriasis and increase your risk for skin cancer. Talk with your doctor about how much direct sunshine to get; wear a hat to protect your face; and use sunscreen on areas that are free of psoriasis plaques.
3. Try an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal baths can be soothing and help gently loosen scales. You’ll find over-the-counter oatmeal bath products at your drugstore, or you can simply mix uncooked oatmeal into a tub of warm water.
4. Stamp out stress. Many people with psoriasis say they tend to experience flare-ups during stressful times.Although the exact link between stress and a flare-up isn’t known, it may be due to the release of stress hormones and their effect on your immune system. Try different ways to treat stress, such as yoga, hypnosis, therapy or counseling, or talking things out with a friend or family member.
5. Investigate medication side effects. Drugs you take for other health conditions could be responsible for a psoriasis flare-up. For example, beta blockers, used for high blood pressure, may make psoriasis worse. If this is the case, ask your doctor about switching to a medication that won’t affect your psoriasis. Lithium, which is prescribed for psychological disorders, can also worsen psoriasis. To counteract this side effect, talk with your doctor about adding another psoriasis treatment, such as light therapy, to your routine. In any event, never make changes to your medication plan without first consulting your doctor.
6. Baby your skin with emollients. Use rich creams and moisturizers on a regular basis to prevent dry skin and help reduce itching, inflammation, and scaling. One of the best ways to lock in the benefits of a moisturizer is to slather it on right after a lukewarm bath, even while the skin is still a bit damp. Avoid hot water because it can cause dry skin, and gently pat (don’t rub) your skin when you get out of the tub before applying the moisturizer.
7. Seek out support. Joining a support group for people with psoriasis can make managing psoriasis and its flares easier in many ways. You may get ideas for dealing with the emotional toll of psoriasis or learn new skin care tips. You may discover that you have something to share with others affected by psoriasis. The National Psoriasis Foundation lists support groups on its website, www.psoriasis.org. If there isn’t a group in your area, check out an online forum.
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- Interview with Jerome Shupack, MD.
- Minimizing Flare-ups. PsoriasisNet, American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.skincarephysicians.com/psoriasisnet/flare_ups.html
- Psoriasis Causes and Known Triggers. National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/causes
- Frequently Asked Questions: Psoriasis in Spring. Summer, Fall and Winter, National Psoriasis Foundation. http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/faqs/weather