What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic immune system disease which can last for years.
The exact cause of psoriasis is not clear. Research has shown that there are many genetic variants which can lead to psoriasis. However, these genes may also require a trigger for symptoms to manifest. This trigger varies from person to person, and may ultimately remain uncertain.
It’s largely agreed that the immune system plays a contributing factor in psoriasis. The immune system usually attacks unwanted bacteria, viruses, and infections. With psoriasis, the immune system is overactive.
The overactive immune system greatly accelerates the life cycle of skin cells, reducing the normal 28 – 30 day cycle to less than a week in many cases.
The new skin is produced before the old skin has completed its life cycle, but skin cannot shed old cells at that rate. Cells build up on the surface of the skin, causing inflammation and discomfort.
Common Psoriasis Triggers
Environmental triggers may trigger psoriasis genes, causing what’s called a ‘flare-up’:
- Certain medications
- Cold weather
- Skin injuries
- Heavy alcohol consumption
Some people find it helpful to keep a diary in order to narrow down environmental triggers over time so they can avoid future flare-ups.
Living With Psoriasis
The severity of psoriasis varies from person to person. Some people have mild symptoms that are barely noticeable, while others are very uncomfortable and find that their daily lives are affected.
Psoriasis is not currently curable, but most cases of psoriasis are treatable. New treatment options are being developed every year.
Psoriasis can cause a number of symptoms, including:
Psoriasis can make daily life a challenge for many people. Itching and redness, discomfort, pain, or self-consciousness are just a few possibilities.
Many people will be prescribed topical creams or salves, or undergo light therapy or systemic treatment (oral or injected medications). Managing flare-ups and avoiding triggers are key to living comfortably.
Lifestyle Tips for Psoriasis:
- Use any medication your dermatologist prescribes.
- Speak with your dermatologist, and keep them updated with any changes or observations. They will have advice and recommendations on what’s best for you.
- Stress does not cause psoriasis, but is a common trigger for flare-ups. Psoriasis can be stressful to have, and stress can make a flare-up worse. Find ways to de-stress your life, whether that’s regularly exercising, meditating, or enjoying a favorite hobby.
- Use moisturizer every day. Oil-based moisturizers are recommended, as they trap moisture on the skin and can help ease itching and flaking.
- Be careful of your exposure to sunlight. The last thing you want is to get sunburned! Small amounts of sunlight can be beneficial towards improving lesions, but large amounts can cause damage.
- Avoid drinking excessive alcohol. Heavy drinking may reduce or inhibit the effectiveness of your treatment.
- If you smoke, consider quitting. Not only is smoking cessation good for your overall health, it can help improve symptoms or stop symptoms from getting worse.
- Stay hydrated to keep your skin naturally moist.
Florida Weather and Psoriasis
Many people find that climate has a big impact on their psoriasis symptoms or flare-ups. Cold, dry weather aggravates symptoms in some people as it quickly dries out skin. Warm, moist weather is ideal for managing psoriasis – and Florida has no shortage of these conditions!
When you’re enjoying a sunny day at the beach or out on the town, remember:
- Use broad-spectrum sunblock of SPF 30 or higher.
- Wear loose, breathable, and comfortable clothing to reduce the chances of irritating your skin.
- If possible, invest in some SPF rated clothing.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible.
- Be extra careful about exposure during the hottest, sunniest part of the day – usually between 10am and 4pm.
Psoriasis can be an uncomfortable condition, but with proper care and treatment, it’s manageable. Remember that your dermatologist is a great resource for any questions or concerns you may have.
There is no single ‘right’ treatment for psoriasis. Finding the right treatment plan may take some trial and error.
Actively communicate with your dermatologist with updates and observations about what’s working and what’s not working with your treatment plan. Together, you’ll find the right combination which can help restore your quality of life!