The immune system mediates psoriasis. However, some triggers can cause it to flare up. A trigger can be stress, injury to the skin, or even the cold weather. Yes, that is right, the cold weather. As the humidity and temperatures drop, there is less moisture in the air. Excessive drying of the skin will trigger a flare-up. As we enter the colder months of the year, learning how to manage your psoriasis during this time will be essential.
What is Psoriasis?
Once diagnosed, psoriasis is a disease many continue to have for the rest of their lives. With psoriasis, the life cycle of the skin cell is sped up, and new cells are made daily versus every few weeks. Scaly patches form as the skin cells accumulate on the surface.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type, affecting 80-90% of those diagnosed. Thick, scaly patches called plaques are raised areas covered with a silvery-white scale. They can be found on the knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp, and can vary in size. Most times, the plaques are very itchy. The cause for psoriasis is not clear, but it is believed that when the immune system is attacking healthy cells (especially the neutrophils) in the body, this causes the increased production in skin cells.
Treatment and Winter Tips
Psoriasis treatments aim to reduce inflammation and clear skin. They consist of three main categories: topical, light therapy, and systemic. Topical therapies can effectively treat most moderate to severe cases. Topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, topical retinoids, and anthralin are a few examples. Controlled amounts of sunlight, UVA/UVB, and psoralen are some of the light therapy treatments. Oral or injectable medications such as retinoids, methotrexate, and cyclosporine make up systemic options.
Even with proper treatment, cold weather and other triggers can cause flare-ups. Below are some tips you can use to reduce the winter flare-ups:
- Use a humidifier in your home to add moisture back to the air.
- Use a thicker moisturizer in the winter that lasts longer. Apply often.
- Use a gentle soap to wash your hands and body.
- Limit showers and baths to 10 minutes and use warm water instead of hot.
- Sit away from direct heat sources such as heaters or fireplaces.
Without proper treatment, you can take every precaution in the world and still have no control over flare-ups. Make sure you are seeing a dermatologist to set a therapy plan that is right for you. Many times, a combination of the therapies listed above may be required.
Clinical trials continue to offer hope to psoriasis sufferers that remain without adequate treatment. To learn more about the currently enrolling psoriasis studies at Texas Dermatology, call us at (210) 728-3919, or click here.