Surprise! 9 Psoriasis Triggers You Weren’t Expecting
Sometimes the strangest things can trigger a skin reaction. When it comes to psoriasis, a chronic condition that increases inflammation in the skin, the triggers run the gamut from strep throat to a curling-iron burn (yes, really!). Don’t let a sneaky trigger cause a major flare-up! We went to top docs to find the top nine things to watch out for in your day-to-day life.
Sneaky Trigger: Getting Sick
Sometimes getting sick can be a double whammy: In addition to your actual illness, you could get a psoriasis outbreak, too. Anything that puts stress on the body can flare psoriasis, but infections in particular can exacerbate it, says Adam Friedman, M.D., professor and interim chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The same inflammation that jumps into high gear to fight the infection can worsen a psoriasis outbreak. Vitamin C, anyone?
Sneaky Trigger: Falling Temps
Baby, it’s cold outside—and that cold weather isn’t doing good things for your skin. The lack of sunlight can cause patients to flare during the winter months, says Omar Noor, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at Rao Dermatology in New York City. You can try phototherapy, a treatment that uses a specific wavelength of UVB sunlight to improve psoriasis. Insider tip: moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Slathering on lots of lotion and using a humidifier in your home can be a big help to prevent flares.
Sneaky Trigger: Prescription Meds
While your medication may fix one problem, it could be causing another. Dr. Friedman advises those with psoriasis to steer clear of beta blockers, anti-malarials and lithium. Oral steroids are also a big no-no, he adds, as they can cause a severe flare (called pustular psoriasis) when going off of them. It is important to speak with your physician before starting or stopping any medications.
Sneaky Trigger: Secondhand Smoke
And yet another reason to steer clear of cigs: Cigarette smoke, whether it’s from you or someone else, is a proven psoriasis trigger. Not only can it kickstart inflammation, but one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who were exposed to secondhand smoke as kids had an increased risk of developing psoriasis later in life.
Sneaky Trigger: Daily Stress
No shocker here. Stress and anxiety can increase certain hormones that cause psoriasis to flare. It’s unfortunate that psoriasis itself can be very anxiety provoking, causing the condition to feed off of itself, says Dr. Noor. “I suggest stress management techniques, like meditation and self awareness, as they can significantly help my psoriasis patients manage their condition.” Friedman also advises having an effective treatment regimen that is ongoing, not reactive, to decrease the impact of stress.
Sneaky Trigger: Alcohol Consumption
You may want to think twice before ordering an alcoholic drink or using medication that contains it. Alcohol intake has been shown to worsen psoriasis, though withholding it is certainly not a cure, says Dr. Friedman. While it’s not proven that one type of alcohol is worse, you could argue that the carbohydrates in beer could cause inflammation due to the high glycemic load.
Sneaky Trigger: Vending Machines
Healthy eating equals healthy skin. “I tell my patients that anything inherently bad for you, like foods with a high-glycemic (sugar) index could potentially flare one's psoriasis,” says Dr. Friedman. Try to cut back on processed foods including white bread, donuts, bagels, and sugary drinks. Some studies also show that curcumin, which gives turmeric its orange color, can be helpful at high concentrations for psoriasis. Pick this super food up in powder form from a health store and mix it into a smoothie with avocado, nut butter or coconut oil for better absorption.
Sneaky Trigger: Curling Irons
Yes, you read that right. Introducing the Koebner phenomenon, an interesting and unfortunate aspect of psoriasis, in which traumatizing the skin can cause you to develop psoriasis in that area, says Noor. A curling or flat-iron burn is the perfect example, along with piercings and tattoos.
Sneaky Trigger: Cabin Fever
If you’ve gone days without going outdoors you might notice your psoriasis flare. The UVB rays from the sun helps to slow down the cell turnover and inflammation in the skin associated with psoriasis. It’s important for you to have a little bit of sun exposure (15 minutes) every day, but don’t go overboard. Too much exposure to UVB rays can lead to sunburn, which is another psoriasis trigger.