Controlling Psoriasis Flare-ups

Psoriasis is a chronic, non-contagious autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It can appear as a reddish, scaly rash that's most commonly found on the scalp and around the ears, elbows, knees, naval, genitals, and buttocks. The scaly patches are also known as psoriatic plaques and are areas of inflammation and excessive skin production. Discuss the points below with your dermatologist to find the optimal way to deal with psoriasis flare-ups.

What is a psoriasis flare-up?

Psoriasis comes and goes in cycles. There are cases in which the skin may look normal and certain factors can trigger a “flare-up.” This will cause the skin to become red, patchy, and scaly.

What causes psoriasis flare-ups?

Psoriasis can be triggered by several things that you should avoid to keep your skin from breaking out.

  • Alcohol
    Alcohol gives you increased risk of having a psoriasis flare-up. A study in 2010 found that people who drank beer specifically are at an increased risk of flare-ups. Two to three drinks is all it takes to cause increased risk.
  • Sunburn
    Sunburns can cause flare-ups. A moderate amount of sun may relieve symptoms of psoriasis, but too much sun means a flare-up. Keep sun exposure to a minimum, but don’t completely avoid the sun if it helps.
  • Cold, Dry Weather
    Cold and dry weather dehydrates the skin and is a horrible combination for people with psoriasis. To avoid having your skin stripped of its moisture, invest in a humidifier for your home. Avoid prolonged exposure to this weather when possible.
  • Skin Trauma
    Trauma to the skin in general can cause a psoriasis flare-up. A simple bump or cut can turn the skin red and scaly. Infections can also cause issues, so be careful when shaving. Acupuncture, tattoos, insect bites, and chafing are also things you should avoid.
  • Stress
    While it’s not been conclusively linked, many people attribute outbreaks to high stress situations. Anxiety should be avoided or relieved when you feel stressed out. This can be done through meditation or yoga.

What medications can control flare-ups?

There are several medications a person can use to control a flare-up once it happens. Most of them are topical ointments that are applied directly to the skin once it happens. Over-the-counter (OTC) options are called emollients, or moisturizers. They are complex mixtures of chemical agents specifically designed to make external layers of the skin softer. OTC medications include Cetaphil or Nivea.

Corticosteroids come in three different levels depending on your psoriasis outbreak level and the state of the skin involved in the flare-up. They are all topical creams applied directly to the skin. Low-potency corticosteroids include Desowen and Cortizone. Medium-potency corticosteroids include Kenalog or Wetcort. High-potency corticosteroids include Ultravate and Temovate.

Coal tar preparations are an OTC option that can be purchased in some stores. Coal tar works by causing the skin to shed dead cells from the top layer and slowing the growth of skin cells. It also decreases dryness in the skin as well as relieves itchiness.

What home remedies can control flare-ups?

There are several different home remedies for psoriasis flare-ups that people swear by. While there is little to no scientific evidence to suggest that these methods help, you may want to use these remedies for temporary relief. Always consult with a doctor before using natural or holistic remedies to treat your psoriasis.

  • Fish oil supplements or periodically eating servings of salmon, albacore tuna, or other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation. Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, fish oil could improve symptoms. Do not use this method if you’re on blood thinners.
  • Regular massages help relieve stress that causes flare-ups. Massage therapy has been shown to relieve chronic pain, which can be associated with psoriasis. Avoid massage oils as they can irritate the skin. 
  • Eating a gluten-free diet may decrease chance of inflammation and reduce the risk of psoriasis outbreaks. This diet eliminates wheat, barley, and rye.
  • Tea tree oil has been used for centuries to treat skin problems and infections. It’s a natural antiseptic that can relieve dry, itchy skin. When it’s applied to the skin, tea tree oil removes dead, dry skin cells and provides moisture to the skin.

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