Sydney is a contributing health writer and editor who enjoys shedding light on health topics, making information available to anyone who wants it, and ending stigmas or lack of access to care and treatment.
Dr. Aaron Wiegmann
Dr. Wiegmann earned his medical degree (M.D.) from Rush Medical College and completed his General Surgery residency at Rush University Medical Center and Cook County Hospital. He has a Master's Degree (M.S.) in clinical research and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles.
April 16, 2021
Psoriasis is a chronic condition, and tends to cycle through flare-ups and remission. Psoriasis is commonly triggered by certain things, including environmental factors.
Some of the most common psoriasis triggers include:
EverydayDr is partnered with PlushCare, a telehealth company that connects patients with online doctors. PlushCare was just named one of the top startups of 2021 by Forbes, and doctors have an average of 15 years of experience. This experience and expertise enables doctors to be able to diagnose, treat, and even prescribe medication, for psoriasis all virtually. You can book a same-day appointment with PlushCare here.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition with no known cure. It’s thought to be the result of an elevated autoimmune response of the body. Its nature is cyclical, with flare ups occurring for a few weeks or months, and then subsiding (going into remission) for periods of time.
Symptoms of psoriasis vary and can include red, patchy skin with silvery scales, itching, burning, soreness, thickened and ridged nails, and swollen joints.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation “Psoriasis can appear at any age, but often has two peaks of onset. The first between the 20 – 30 years of age and the second between 50 – 60 years of age.”
Because there isn’t a cure for psoriasis, it’s important to know what psoriasis triggers to avoid, so that flare ups can be kept to a minimum. By following certain lifestyle choices, psoriasis can be controlled.
While the cosmetic symptoms of psoriasis are unsightly and even uncomfortable, there are even more important reasons to keep track of psoriasis triggers. People with psoriasis are at risk of developing other conditions such as:
To guard your health, it’s best to avoid psoriasis triggers and promote long periods of remission. Triggers can also be very personal, everyone’s triggers are different, so it’s important to take note of yours and not just follow the outlines for typical psoriasis triggers.
An existing skin infection and commonly a case of strep throat can cause the immune system to respond with a psoriasis flare up. Strep is often the initial psoriasis trigger in children and children with a psoriasis flare up will commonly be tested for strep.
However, any illness could be a potential trigger, as infection causes stress in the body. Non-skin infections also can activate an autoimmune reaction where the immune system reacts to the skin—such as in psoriasis. This includes:
Stress is considered one of the top psoriasis triggers. Unfortunately, psoriasis itself causes stress and can create a negative feedback loop.
Talk to your doctor about stress management techniques, mindfulness, and relaxation ideas to help break the cycle. You can even seek out a therapist if you find yourself feeling stressed out, or if it seems your psoriasis symptoms are affecting your mental well-being. Through our partner PlushCare, you can make online appointments with quality therapists.
In what is called the Koebner phenomenon, any injury to the skin may potentially trigger a psoriasis flare up. This includes abrasions, bug bites, or even sunburn.
Take precautions to keep skin safe by using a high SPF sunscreen and insect repellent if outdoors for long periods of time.
Some medications such as high blood pressure medications, lithium, or antimalarial drugs can cause psoriasis flare up in certain patients.
Talk to a doctor if you’re having a bad reaction to a certain medication, they might be able to prescribe a different medication that still treats you, but doesn’t trigger your psoriasis. You can make an appointment with a board-certified physician on PlushCare, and discuss psoriasis triggers and medication interferences.
Winter is not the best time of year for psoriasis for several reasons. Cold, dry weather can exacerbate psoriasis. A lack of exposure to sunlight may also contribute to flare ups. Many people with psoriasis see improvement in symptoms with short term exposure to sunlight, and this becomes a difficult task to achieve during winter months.
Winter is also a season that sees more frequent infectious diseases in the general population, and sickness is an additional psoriasis trigger. Using a humidifier in the home and avoiding long, hot showers can help. Be sure to keep skin well moisturized, and talk to your healthcare professional about the use of a sun lamp for short periods during the winter months.
Drinking alcohol can have a detrimental effect on psoriasis. Even consuming small amounts of alcoholic beverages can decrease likelihood of remission, negatively impact treatment, make psoriasis worse or trigger a flare up, reduce immunity, or increase chances of liver disease.
Studies show that some patients with psoriasis also have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). For this reason alone, it is not recommended for people with psoriasis to drink alcohol.
Studies have shown that cigarette smoking may exacerbate psoriasis. Heavy smokers have twice the risk of psoriasis than light smokers. Researchers also found that women smokers were at higher risk of (72%) of psoriasis than men.
While corticosteroids are used to treat the symptoms of psoriasis, it is important to use these under the supervision of a health professional. Too quick a withdrawal from this medication can cause a psoriasis flare up and exacerbate the condition.
Not all foods affect all people with psoriasis, but there are some common food triggers:
If your psoriasis is in flare up and you suspect it may be due to a food allergy or sensitivity, contact your doctor. The best way to discover which food is a trigger for you is to team up with your doctor on following an elimination diet to isolate the problem food.
There is a link between body weight and psoriasis. Being overweight alone does not cause psoriasis, however obesity does increase your chances for getting psoriasis. The link isn’t clear, but research shows that losing weight can help decrease psoriasis flare up.
One study reported that a group who lost weight by eating a healthy diet and exercising saw their symptoms decrease by 50%. This despite any other changes to medication or treatment plan. Many of the side effects of psoriasis are also high risk conditions for obesity, so any weight loss can help.
Psoriasis itself is a bit of a mystery, and there are many environmental factors that can cause flare-ups. Over time, you will discover which of these factors have a tendency to interfere with remission, and can protect your health by avoiding these psoriasis triggers.
Psoriasis is different for everyone, with unique triggers for any given patient. “To find your trigger”, offers the American Academy of Dermatology, “you’ll have to do a bit of detective work. A good place to start is by looking at this chart of the common triggers, which also gives you signs that it could be a trigger for you.”
For help figuring out what your psoriasis trigger is, and how to best manage flare-ups, PlushCare doctors can help. With experience and skill, doctors can help you find out what the trigger is, all virtually.
Click here to make an appointment online with a PlushCare doctor.
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