August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month: Celebrating a Spirit of Resilience
Stress, pressure, and fear surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus can affect your entire body’s well-being. And that includes your skin. If you’re among the 7.5 million Americans with psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disorder, stress-triggered flare-ups could be adding to your worries.
The good news is that there are a number of things you and your Advanced Dermatology providers can do now to help you minimize recurrences.
How does stress affect your skin?
Many common skin conditions, including psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea and skin rashes can all be triggered (worsened), by stress. And who isn’t stressed these days?
Your skin mirrors on the outside what is happening inside. Mental stress causes your body to release chemicals that boost your inflammatory response. Scientists and physicians suspect this is what causes stress-induced psoriasis flare-ups.
When something causes psoriasis to flare-up, skin cells grow abnormally fast – in just days instead of weeks. The result is a buildup of cells and thick patches of red skin with silvery scales that can flake off like dandruff. The areas may be itchy or sore and can occur anywhere on the body, though the most common areas for psoriasis to develop are the elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms and feet. Unfortunately, more flare-ups often cause more stress, which creates a frustrating cycle.
In addition, psoriasis tends to worsen with weight gain, with the use of certain common medications, such as beta blockers used to control high blood pressure or heart rate, or lithium used to treat bipolar disorder, and with the onset of infections, including respiratory infections.
How can you protect your skin from flare-ups during times of stress?
At Advanced Dermatology, our team of dermatologists and providers participate in clinical research and remain at the forefront of the latest trends and treatments for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Even if you are self-isolating, quarantining or working from home, you can schedule an appointment by booking online, by calling us at 866.400.3376 or by calling for a Telehealth appointment at 844.989.3376.
Meanwhile, here are some recommendations you can start right now.
- Get enough rest every night: Adequate rest is critical in managing stressful environments and situations. The time you spend sleeping also allows your skin to rejuvenate. Aim for six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.
- Cleanse and moisturize your skin: Maintaining you daily skincare routine keeps your skin healthier. A moisturizer will help rehydrate your skin from the outside. Drinking plenty of water, particularly in these hot summer months, will help keep your skin hydrated from the inside.
Despite the temptation, don’t spend long amounts of time in a hot bath or shower, as this can exacerbate your psoriasis.
- Eat healthy foods: While the foods you eat don’t cause psoriasis, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can help you get the nutrition you need to keep your skin looking its best.
A study published online by JAMA Dermatology in 2018, found that people with psoriasis who followed a Mediterranean diet — an eating pattern rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, fruit, nuts, and extra-virgin olive oil — experienced fewer severe flare-ups. More research is needed, but many experts believe the Mediterranean diet contains foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body and may offer extra protection against psoriasis triggers.
- Protect your skin from the sun: We know, this may sound strange, but even if you are spending most of your time indoors now, you can still benefit from sun protection. The sun’s UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays can penetrate windows, and you may be exposed to more of these harmful rays than you think. Make using an SPF of 30 or greater a daily part of your skincare regimen. We have a great array of dermatologist-recommended products in our Advanced Dermatology Online Shop that provide broad-spectrum SPF 30, 40 and 50 UVA and UVB coverage for your face and body.
- Enjoy your favorite exercise or meditation: Managing stress through your favorite form of exercise or meditation can reduce your cortisol and improve your overall health. This can be reflected in how vibrant your skin looks. Conversely, stress can make your skin look dull and contribute to flakiness and itching.
- If you smoke, quit: Smoking is bad for your skin on many levels. It constricts blood vessels which reduces blood flow to the skin’s surface, resulting in pale, dull skin. Smoking causes lines, wrinkles, and can contribute to squamous cell carcinoma. It also damages collagen and elastin.
- Eliminate alcohol: Alcohol has inflammatory properties which can trigger a flare.
- Keep your skin moistened: After your bath or shower use a thick moisturizer or salve like Aquaphor ointment on your body to retain moisture. Another way to maintain moisture levels is to use a cool mist humidifier.
How does Advanced Dermatology treat psoriasis?
At the present time, there is no cure for psoriasis, however, there are many helpful options to treat it. What is prescribed for you will depend on which type or psoriasis you have, where it is located and how severe it is, as well as other factors which include:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Your tolerance to specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
Basic techniques include moisturization and maintaining a healthy lifestyle including a well-rounded diet, exercise and reduced stress. Other treatments include:
- Topical therapies: (prescription or over-the-counter creams, ointments and lotions) applied directly to the skin. The choice depends upon the type and location of the plaques.
- Light-based and laser options: Extensive or widespread psoriasis may be treated with light therapy, also called phototherapy. UVB rays from a special light source penetrate the skin to slow the growth of affected skin cells. The light intensity, duration of exposure, and number of treatments vary for each person.
- Oral medications: such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and others, may be prescribed in some instances.
- Systemic medications. To treat moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, especially when it involves large areas of the body, our dermatologists may prescribe a biologic therapy that suppresses the immune system. These include Enbrel®, Humira®, Remicade®, and Stelara®, and we stay abreast of some that are in clinical trials.
If you suffer from psoriasis, Advanced Dermatology is here to care for you
Schedule your appointment today by booking online, by calling us at 866.400.3376 or by calling for a Telehealth appointment at 844.989.3376.