Lifestyle Adjustments to Help Ease Psoriasis

Medical treatment will go a long way toward helping you control your psoriasis, but it isn't the whole story. Making certain lifestyle changes can also help you ease your skin discomfort and minimize periodic flare-ups. Start by trying to get adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, participating in regular physical exercise and drinking plenty of water. These habits will help keep your stress levels down and your body in top condition to fight off infection.

Learning your triggers

Each person experiences psoriasis in a unique way. Individual triggers may include:

  • Infections
  • Certain drugs
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Skin trauma
  • Stress
  • Winter weather

All of these triggers can increase the chance of outbreaks. Here are some specifics:

  1. Obesity. If you carry extra weight, your chance of developing inverse psoriasis increases. Plaques associated with all types of psoriasis can develop in skin folds. To get your weight into a healthy range, talk to your doctor about a weight-loss and exercise plan.
  2. Smoking. If you smoke, quit. People with a family history of psoriasis who smoke are more likely to develop the disease and are more likely to have a severe form of it. Quitting can sometimes clear up the skin. Don't use a nicotine patch without consulting your doctor first. It could make your psoriasis worse.
  3. Alcohol. Heavy drinking can cause flare-ups and interfere with the effectiveness of medications. If you drink, aim for moderation: no more than one drink a day for women, two for men. And if you're undergoing treatment, consult your doctor first. Combining certain psoriasis medications with alcohol can have serious side effects.
  4. Stress. For some, stressful events can worsen their psoriasis. There are many stress-reducers: psoriasis support groups, psychotherapy, meditation, physical exercise and prayer—actually, any healthy activity that helps you feel relaxed is a good idea.
  5. Medications. Certain drugs can trigger or aggravate psoriasis flare-ups, including antimalarials, beta-blockers (for high blood pressure) and lithium (for bipolar disorder). Corticosteroids used to treat psoriasis can also worsen psoriasis if they're overused.
Infections and skin trauma

Certain infections can trigger either an initial outbreak or a flare-up of psoriasis. These can include:

  • Thrush (Candida albicans)
  • Staphylococcus
  • Strep throat (Streptococcus)
  • Viral upper respiratory infections (colds, flu, pneumonia)
  • HIV

Treating these ailments will sometimes also improve the psoriasis.

Psoriasis can also develop at the site of a scratch, cut, abrasion or puncture—or after a burn (including sunburn). This occurrence is called the Koebner phenomenon. About half of all people with psoriasis experience the Koebner phenomenon at one time or another. It's more likely to happen when active lesions are already present.

Published August 2011

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Lifestyle Adjustments to Help Ease Psoriasis

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