If you are one of the 7.5 million Americans who suffer from psoriasis, then you know that this autoimmune condition can be unpredictable. Commonly active in areas like elbows, knees and shins, scalp and lower back, psoriasis appears in the form of red, flaky and itchy patches. While the exact cause of psoriasis is not known, doctors do know that an overactive immune system and genetics both play major roles in the development of this disease. Because of this, psoriasis is not just the “skin condition” that many people think it is. In fact, psoriasis starts inside of your body long before you see the outward signs on the skin. But learning what triggers psoriasis and controlling those triggers is key to living a relatively symptom-free life. Let’s start by understanding psoriasis and why it occurs.
A properly functioning immune system protects the body from infection and illness. As the first line of defense, the immune system will detect and destroy bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens present in the body by launching an automatic inflammatory response. In people with psoriasis, this response occurs even when there is nothing to fight against and, as a result, the body attacks its own tissues, such as skin. In this situation, the inflammation reveals itself through the red, itchy and scaly patches typically associated with psoriasis.
Genetics plays a smaller role in psoriasis but is still very much connected. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, it is believed that 10% of the population inherit one or more of the genes that could eventually lead to psoriasis, but only 2-3% actually develops the disease. It is also believed that for psoriasis to be activated, a person must have a combination of genes that cause psoriasis and be exposed to specific external triggers.
So what triggers psoriasis? Well, when it comes to external factors, they’re all over the board. But what might cause a flare-up for one individual, may not affect another. Figuring out your personal psoriasis triggers and learning to avoid them can be very helpful in controlling it.
Easing Psoriasis Symptoms
While psoriasis is different for everyone, there are several bits of guidance that are universally beneficial in improving symptoms. Consider the following:
1. Manage your stress
Stress can activate psoriasis whether for the first time or agitate existing psoriasis. Practice relaxation techniques, such as breathing, exercise, or yoga to prevent stress from affecting or causing a flare-up.
2. Stay moisturized and use sunscreen
It’s very common for cold, dry weather to trigger psoriasis while hot, sunny weather may help to control or alleviate symptoms. Apply a daily hand and body lotion that is rich in humectants and emollients for long-lasting hydration and is formulated to soothe the skin and minimize inflammation. Also, remember to apply UV protection daily like Lexli’s aloe sunscreen spray.
3. Check your medication
Certain medications can activate psoriasis. Check with your doctor to determine if any medications you currently take could make your psoriasis symptoms worse.
4. Prevent injury to skin
Injuries or trauma to the skin, like vaccinations, sunburns, scratches, cuts and even bruises, can trigger a psoriasis response.
5. Stay healthy
Any infection in the body affecting the immune system can stir psoriasis. As a result, a person might experience a flare-up following an illness.
6. Watch your diet
For a lot of health issues, maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight is important and psoriasis is no exception. While changing your diet will not cure psoriasis, it can help to clear up or prevent activity. Avoid trans-fats, refined sugars and processed foods. Also limit cholesterol and salt intake and avoid foods that are high in saturated fats.
7. Limit alcohol
Limiting your alcohol intake can also help to minimize psoriasis.
8. Quit smoking
Smoking not only acts as a trigger for psoriasis but also deprives your skin of oxygen (which accelerates the aging process) and depletes your body of the vitamins it needs to heal itself.
There isn’t one silver bullet for keeping psoriasis at bay. However, by keeping track of the factors that come into play when you experience a flare-up you can begin to isolate your triggers. Furthermore, by practicing good prevention techniques, you stand to lessen the severity of flare-ups when they do occur.
Read more about a Lexli customer who improved her skin after a psoriasis diagnosis.