Three Reasons Psoriasis Worsens in the Winter

Health Writer

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. When you have psoriasis, your skin cells multiply quickly, causing them to build up and create plaques or thick patches of skin. These plaques are often itchy or painful. While there are medications and treatments for psoriasis, there is no cure.

During winter time, many people see a worsening of their psoriasis symptoms, with an increased number of flare-ups. The following are three of the main reasons psoriasis symptoms often worsen during the cold months and suggestions on how you can lessen the symptoms.

Dry Air

During the winter months, the air is dry - both indoors and outdoors. The outside air no longer has the humidity that it had during the summer months and indoor heating also dries out the air. Cold winds and extra clothing can dry out your skin as well.

Dry skin can become itchy and irritated. Scratching or rubbing your skin can further irritate it, causing a flare-up. Dry skin can also create small fissures in your skin; these microscopic injuries can trigger your psoriasis.

What You Can Do:

  • Use a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air and your skin. This will prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Moisturize your skin frequently. Use a thick, creamy moisturizer and apply it when you first get out of the shower as your skin is still damp.
  • When showering, take short, warm showers rather than long, hot showers. Make sure you are using fragrance-free, moisturizing soaps or body gels.
  • Wear gloves and protective clothing when outdoors to protect your skin from the cold and wind. Choose soft clothing so you don't irritate your skin and dress in layers so it is easier to remove layers when you get warm.
  • Drink plenty of water. Many people tend to decrease the amount of water they drink during the colder months, but skin hydrates from the inside as well. Drinking water keeps your skin moisturized.

Less Sunlight

Direct sunlight is thought to help improve psoriasis symptoms by preventing the rapid growth of skin cells. During the winter, the days are shorter and, because it is cold outside, you probably spend less time outdoors. If you are outside, you might bundle up from head to foot, which further decreases how much the sun's ultraviolet rays reach your skin.

What You Can Do:

  • Talk to your doctor about phototherapy. This therapy uses light rays to treat psoriasis and can be done in your doctor's office or at home with the proper equipment. Your doctor will determine the proper amount of UVB therapy you need.

Colds, Flu and Other Infections

When you get sick your immune system rushes into action to help fight off the infection. Unfortunately, when your immune system is activated, your psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disorder, can be triggered. Anything that affects your immune system affects your psoriasis.

What You Can Do:

  • Wash your hands frequently and use a hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands. Make sure you apply moisturizer to your hands after washing them or using a sanitizer.
  • Get plenty of rest and eat right to help boost your immune system and prevent colds and other viruses.
  • Lower levels of stress, which can increase your susceptibility to infection.

If you notice that your psoriasis symptoms worsen during the winter months, make an appointment with your dermatologist to review your medications. You might need to add medication or adjust the dosage of your current  medications to help manage the psoriasis during the winter months.