What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes your body to produce a rapid buildup of excess skin cells. This increased skin cell production occurs in cycles of “flare ups'' and remission. Psoriasis flare ups may cause inflammation and itchy, dry patches on different areas of the body, most commonly the elbows, knees, trunk, and scalp.
Around 7.4 million Americans have psoriasis, making it a relatively common condition. There is no known cure at this time, however, there are many lifestyle habits and coping strategies through which you can make living with psoriasis more manageable.
The Top 10 Ways to Manage Your Psoriasis
- Moisturize Often. Make sure you moisturize regularly and often. After you bathe and gently pat yourself dry, apply a thick layer of moisturizer to your skin while it’s still moist. Depending on dryness levels, you may prefer using oils, such as almond oil or jojoba oil, as they have more staying power than lotions or creams.
- Nourish Your Skin With Sunlight. The key here is moderation. You want to expose your skin to small amounts of natural sunlight, as controlled amounts may improve psoriasis. However, consult your doctor or dermatologist before treating your skin this way, as too much sun may trigger or worsen flare ups. Additionally, make sure to cover skin that isn’t affected by psoriasis with sunscreen.
- Avoid Stress. Stress is a common trigger for psoriasis, and your daily stressors may be making your psoriasis worse. There are many simple steps you can take to reduce stress, such as practicing meditation or yoga, getting more sleep, trying breathing exercises, and going for short walks.
- Take Daily Baths. Bathing in lukewarm water daily can assist in calming any skin inflammation and removing scales. Try adding colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts, and bath oils to the water to give your baths a boost, and remember to soak in the water for at least 15 minutes.
- Cover The Affected Areas Overnight. Apply an ointment-based moisturizer to affected skin and wrap it with plastic wrap before you go to sleep. This may help slough off scales. When you wake up in the morning, remove the plastic and wash off the moisturizer with lukewarm water.
- Try Topical Treatments. Topical treatments may be used to treat mild to moderate psoriasis. They are available as creams, gels, lotions, ointments, and sprays.
Common topical treatments include:
- Topical corticosteroids
- Topical retinoids
- Salicylic acid
- Stay Away From Alcohol. Consuming alcohol may reduce the effectiveness of some psoriasis treatments. If you are using medication for your psoriasis, you may want to speak to your doctor about how drinking may affect your treatment. Additionally, alcohol may also be a trigger for some people with the condition. If you have psoriasis, try avoiding alcohol for at least two weeks to see if your condition improves. If you do drink, try drinking in moderation.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet. You can manage your psoriasis by eating well and maintaining a healthy weight. Choose fresh fruits, vegetables, and proteins and avoid over-processed foods.
- Exercise Regularly. Besides eating healthy and avoiding alcohol, it is important to exercise regularly. All of these factors are important in keeping a healthy lifestyle and may benefit your psoriasis.
- Consider Light Therapy. Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, may be recommended by your physician. Phototherapy is generally a mild approach and uses ultraviolet light to treat skin inflammation.
Is Psoriasis Genetic?
Recent studies show that certain gene variants may increase your risk for psoriasis. A variant is a specific site on a gene that differs from person to person. The HLA-C gene is expressed in nearly every one of your cells. It plays a large role in certain autoimmune reactions by revealing antigens, or foreign substances in your body, to cells in your immune system.
HLA-C strongly influences your body’s autoimmune response, and a variant in this gene may promote skin-specific inflammation that is generally associated with psoriasis. One of the best ways to determine if you have the psoriasis gene variant is by taking a certified genetics test, such as this one or requesting a genetic screening through your physician.