How to Deal With Psoriasis Itch
A common and painful problem
Itching affects between 70 percent and 90 percent of people with psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Some people have described it as a burning, biting sensation, or the feeling of being bitten by fire ants. The foundation offers the following tips to help control your psoriasis and improve your quality of life.
Stress is a common trigger for a psoriasis flareup and also can make the itch worse. But you can take steps to reduce your stress levels.
Sit comfortably on the floor, with eyes closed or barely open, and focus on your breathing for 15 minutes. This can help clear your mind and reduce anxiety.
Exercise increases production of endorphins, which are chemicals that improve mood and energy. Exercise also has been shown to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. A large U.S. study showed that women who regularly participate in vigorous exercise are less likely to get psoriasis than less-active women.
Find a therapist
Consider taking a course in stress management or finding a therapist in your area who specializes in stress management. Connecting with others who know what you are going through can help, too. Find people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis at the National Psoriasis Foundation’s TalkPsoriasis.org.
Keep skin moist
This reduces redness and itching and helps the skin heal. Dermatologists recommend heavy creams and ointments to lock water into the skin. Cooking oils and even shortening can be inexpensive substitutes for commercial moisturizers.
Apply a scale softening (keratolytic) product to reduce excess skin and prevent psoriasis plaques from cracking and flaking. Over-the-counter lotions that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, or phenol can help remove scale.
Take a cold shower
Avoid hot baths and try to limit showers to 10 minutes or less. Hot water can make skin irritation and dryness worse. Apply lotion after washing to lock in moisture. Store lotions in the refrigerator for cooling relief.
Try an over-the-counter remedy
There are several ingredients that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating itch. Some of these include calamine, hydrocortisone (a weak steroid), camphor, diphenhydramine hydrochloride (HCl), benzocaine, and menthol. Beware that these ingredients may increase irritation and dryness.
Consider a prescription
Psoriasis has no cure but can be managed in most people, although moderate to severe psoriasis requires lifelong treatment. You may be able to reduce symptoms and improve appearance with topical therapies, such as corticosteroids, vitamin D derivatives (commonly combined with a steroid to slow skin cell growth, flatten lesions and remove scales), anthralin, and vitamin A derivatives (also called topical retinoids).