How Your Menstrual Cycle Affects Psoriasis—and What to Do About It
Stomach cramps, mood swings, fatigue…getting your period can be bad enough without having a psoriasis flare-up, as well. But it’s common to have a resurgence of psoriasis around the time of menstruation—and it all comes down to hormones.
When you menstruate, your hormone levels fluctuate, and that can cause psoriasis to flare up, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Here’s how doctors explain the connection between the menstrual cycle and psoriasis flare-ups.
Chalk It Up to Hormones
“While not much research has been done on this, some research has been done on women who are pregnant,” says Jaliman. The pregnancy research helps to shed some light on why psoriatic symptoms sometimes worsen during menstruation. An article published in the British Medical Journal in 2007, based on analysis of studies, national health information and databases, and experiences of practicing dermatologists, estimated that up to 60 percent of women see an improvement in their psoriasis during pregnancy. The authors attributed this to high levels of the hormone progesterone, which “downregulates the T-cell proliferative response.” In other words, progesterone dampens the body’s immune response, which “misfires” in someone with psoriasis and causes inflammation and the overproduction of skin cells.