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.
Leann Poston, M.D.
Leann Poston, M.D. earned her medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. She completed an MBA from Raj Soin College of Business, focusing on healthcare. She is a full-time medical communication writer and educator.
April 16, 2021
Yes, like many skin conditions, psoriasis can be pretty itchy. Itchiness in psoriasis is caused by scaly, dry, and inflamed skin.
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Psoriasis is not a typical rash, but is rather a disease caused by a dysfunction of the immune system called an autoimmune disorder. The immune system attacks normal, healthy skin cells. Skin repair is overactive, causing a faster than normal buildup of skin cells, creating scales and plaques.
“Psoriasis often has a typical appearance that a primary care doctor can recognize,” offers the CDC on their psoriasis information page, “but it can be confused with other skin diseases (like eczema), so a dermatologist is often the best doctor to diagnose it.”
Some individuals with psoriasis report pain or itching in areas of inflamed, scaly skin, and some do not.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, so itching can definitely be present at times. However, psoriasis is also a remitting and relapsing disease. This means that there can be periods of remission, in which symptoms are not present.
Psoriasis can be found anywhere on the body, and it can be present over a large area, or in smaller patches over different parts of the body.
There are five types of psoriasis, with plaque psoriasis as the most common, affecting 80% of people with psoriasis. These various forms can present differently, and of course, different people are affected in different ways. It is also possible to have more than one type of psoriasis.
No, psoriasis is not contagious. Like most skin conditions, psoriasis can carry a certain stigma, luckily though it’s not contagious to those around you.
Psoriasis is an immune overreaction to normal tissues in the body. It is not caused by any kind of transmissible bacteria or virus. Though psoriasis may look unsightly, it is not infectious.
Psoriasis has no known cure, but there are treatment options that can put it into remission. Many things can trigger psoriasis, and the key is to find out which of these affects your particular case. Some common psoriasis triggers include the following.
Stress is a common psoriasis trigger, and unfortunately, a psoriasis outbreak can cause stress, creating a positive feedback loop. However, there are some things you can explore to decrease stress, such as:
Sometimes the most helpful thing is being able to talk to someone. PlushCare has board-certified therapists available to talk, all virtually. To make an appointment with a PlushCare therapist, click here.
Injury to the skin can cause a psoriasis flare. Triggers include:
Protect the skin when possible, and if an injury occurs, treat it quickly for the best chances of avoiding a flare-up.
Certain medications can cause a worsening of psoriasis symptoms. These include:
If you suspect a medication is contributing to a psoriasis flare-up, it is important to continue your medication but speak to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe an alternative medication.
Because psoriasis is linked to an overreaction by the immune system, flare-ups can occur four to six weeks after the body has fought off sicknesses such as:
The best way to avoid this type of flare-up is to practice overall healthy behaviors (nutritious food, regular hydration, moderate exercise) and try to avoid close contact with those who are sick.
Winter can be tough for people who have psoriasis. Lack of short-term sun exposure and cold and dry climates are triggers for many people. The best way to deal with this is to use a humidifier and to keep your skin well-moisturized. A sun lamp may also be beneficial.
People with psoriasis may find that they are sensitive to certain foods. Most common are nightshades (tomato, potato, or gluten). Following an elimination diet under the supervision of a registered dietician or allergist may help identify a problem food.
Those with psoriasis should not drink alcohol. Not only is it a trigger in itself, but those with psoriasis can also have a higher incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and other liver dysfunctions. Though alcohol does not cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it can stress the liver even more and make the symptoms of psoriasis worse.
Studies have shown a link between smoking and psoriasis. Those who smoke are more likely to get psoriasis, and the symptoms can be more severe for heavy smokers.
The first line of defense for psoriasis is prevention. By avoiding the common triggers, psoriasis outbreaks can be better controlled and see longer periods of remission.
When flare-ups do occur, there are several lines of treatment that your doctor may pursue. Psoriasis can be treated with topical therapy in several forms, including corticosteroids. Topical treatments could come in the form of:
Doctors can also prescribe:
These topical treatments calm redness and swelling and can reduce the symptoms of an active psoriasis flare-up.
Another treatment that your doctor may recommend is light therapy. Light therapy is a common first-line treatment and can be done in several ways.
The simplest is heliotherapy, or brief exposure to sunlight daily. Heliotherapy should be done under the supervision of a doctor, as sunburn can trigger psoriasis. Your doctor may also administer different broad or narrow band treatments of UVB light using a machine.
For moderate to severe cases of psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe oral or injectable medications. Because of the possible side effects, these therapies may be alternated with other treatments.
For some milder cases of psoriasis, certain home remedies can be used to relieve symptoms.
First and foremost, symptoms of itching and scaling of psoriasis may be helped by frequent moisturizing. Aloe vera cream is a popular option to soothe skin, but should be applied frequently throughout the day and may take weeks to show positive results. Omega fish oil applied to the skin with a dressing for up to six hours a day may improve scaling.
The bottom line of any psoriasis treatment regimen is that it must be personalized to address specific needs. Keeping skin clean and moist can help control itching, but working together with your doctor to implement a comprehensive treatment plan is the best way to keep psoriasis flare-ups to a minimum.
Unfortunately, there’s no permanent cure for psoriasis. Luckily though, there are tons of great treatments to deal with psoriasis and its itchiness and discomfort.
In some cases, with proper treatment and avoiding triggers, you might be able to prevent psoriasis symptoms for the most part. You can speak to a doctor about long-term treatment plans with the help of our partner, PlushCare. They offer access to top board-certified physicians who are familiar with skin conditions like psoriasis.
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