5 Empowering Ways to Manage Your Psoriasis
The hallmark symptoms of psoriasis—red, itchy, scaly patches on the skin—can be uncomfortable. So, chances are, when you have a psoriasis flare-up, you’ll try anything to help stop it from spreading or getting worse. The good news? There are plenty of ways you can take to control flares and get your condition under control. Start with these steps.
1. Follow Your Treatment Regimen
One of the best things you can do to lessen psoriasis symptoms and prevent them from flaring up is to find the right treatment plan for you. “It is recommended that patients with psoriasis speak to a dermatology-certified clinician to discuss which treatment modalities are appropriate based on level of severity, coexisting psoriatic arthritis, and influence on daily quality of life,” says Ashton Frulla, N.P., a board-certified dermatology nurse practitioner at Entière Dermatology in New York City.
And once you have the right treatment plan in place, be sure to stick with it. “It’s important to follow your treatment regimen in order to keep your psoriasis as best-controlled as possible,” adds John Anthony, M.D., a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. If it doesn’t seem to be working well for you, work with your doctor to make any adjustments.
2. Avoid or Reduce Psoriasis Triggers
While exact psoriasis triggers can vary from person to person, a few to keep in mind include:
An infection affects your immune system, which can, in turn, affect your psoriasis. “Strep infections are probably the most notorious for flaring up psoriasis,” says Anthony. “You can’t always prevent getting those infections, so getting them treated is really important.”
Anything from a sunburn to a cut may trigger a psoriasis flare, so practice safety as much as you can. “Also be sure to avoid new piercings and tattoos—I’ve seen psoriasis patients who get them, then, sure enough, psoriasis shows up in that same spot,” says Anthony.
“Certain medications can flare psoriasis,” says Anthony. This includes medications like lithium, antimalarials, inderal, quinidine, and indomethacin. Make sure your healthcare provider is aware of all medications you take in order to help you identify and avoid any potential negative interactions, emphasizes Anthony.
3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
While prioritizing a healthy lifestyle is good advice for everyone, adopting healthy habits is especially important when you have a chronic condition like psoriasis. Start with these steps:
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight. “If you’re overweight, getting to a more ideal weight may help your psoriasis,” says Anthony. Even a small amount of weight loss can be beneficial for psoriasis severity. Start by incorporating healthy eating habits and regular exercise into your routine.
- Relieve stress. “The immune system is altered and adversely activated by stress in some patients,” says Anthony. So it’s important to take steps to manage stress—start by trying relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.
- Stop smoking. “We know that psoriasis is more difficult to treat in smokers, and it tends to be worse,” explains Anthony. Visit smokefree.gov for tips to help you quit and stay smoke-free.
- Limit alcohol. It’s also important to monitor your alcohol intake, as excessive drinking may interfere with the effectiveness of your psoriasis treatment. Aim for moderation—up to two drinks a day for men, one for women.
4. Soothe Without Scratching
“My psoriasis tends to flare if I’m scratching and itching—when I break skin, that definitely makes my psoriasis expand across my body,” says Alisha Bridges, 33, who has been living with psoriasis since age 7 and is now an advocate for the condition.
“When the skin itches, it’s human nature to scratch it,” says Anthony. “But just like a piercing or tattoo can cause the psoriasis to flare, getting big scratches on your skin can cause psoriasis to worsen in that area.”
Bridges says taking lukewarm showers and baths—instead of hot—helps her. “Hot water tends to dry out my skin and exacerbate my psoriasis symptoms,” she says. It can also help to limit bathing time to as few as five minutes to help prevent dryness.
And don’t forget to moisturize after bathing, to protect your skin. “Moisturizing is useful in keeping the skin barrier as intact as possible,” explains Anthony. Pro tip: Keep your ointments and lotions in the refrigerator, since applying a cool moisturizer can help relieve itchiness while locking in hydration.
But what if the itching just won’t quit? “There have been times I wear gloves at night so I don’t scratch and break the skin and cause my psoriasis to flare more,” says Bridges.
If it comes to that, though, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. “If itchiness is really bothersome, it needs to be treated,” says Anthony.
5. Be Honest with Your Doctor, About Your Condition and Your Well-being
“Having psoriasis, there’s an added daily burden—from pain and itching, to skin flaking and showing up on your clothes, to more doctors’ appointments where you have to take more sick leave, to just feeling ostracized and misunderstood,” says Julie Shafer, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Portland, Oregon. Which is why it’s important to find a doctor who understands how to treat the physical symptoms and address your emotional well‑being, adds Shafer.
“We treat psoriasis until patients are happy,” explains Anthony. “If you’re happy with a few little plaques on your skin, and you don’t want to advance to another treatment, that’s fine. But, if you’re not satisfied, or if you feel your psoriasis is not well controlled, we have some really good medications now that we can use to get you under control.” So, keep an open line of communication with your doctor about your treatment goals and what you want to achieve.