Common Triggers that Cause Psoriasis Symptom Flare-ups

By Laura Buford, MD May 21, 2019 No Comments

Psoriasis triggers

Psoriasis is a chronic and often painful skin condition where skin cells reproduce faster than normal, resulting in reddish, round skin patches and silvery appearing scales to develop along the skin. Typically, skin cells mature and shed from the surface of the body in 28 to 30 days. Psoriatic skin cells mature and move to the surface within 3-4 days. Instead of falling off, these skin cells pile up and form lesions that are common to the elbows, knees, feet, hands, and scalp.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely cure psoriasis. There are, however, treatment options aimed at managing symptoms including UV light therapy, Excimer laser treatments, topical or oral medications, and biologic agents. Psoriasis sufferers can also follow these tips to minimize flare-ups.

Along with treatments and proper care, many individuals with psoriasis notice that specific variables cause their symptoms to occur or worsen in severity. By understanding and avoiding these “triggers”, patients can minimize their symptoms and, in some instances, deactivate their psoriasis.

Psoriasis triggers are not universal. What may cause one person’s psoriasis to become active, may not affect another. Established psoriasis triggers include:

  • Weather: Many psoriasis sufferers will notice that cold or dry weather makes their symptoms worse, while sunny and warm weather tends to help. During the colder months make sure to keep the skin properly moisturized and minimize your exposure to harsh elements.
  • Allergies: While there is no proof that psoriasis is an allergic reaction, there is evidence that the body’s immune system plays a role in both conditions. Thus, psoriasis patients with known allergies should take steps to avoid their known allergens.
  • Stress: As covered in a previous blog post, stress has a negative impact on the skin. Stress tends to increase psoriasis symptoms. Avoiding known stressors and practicing relaxation and stress reduction techniques can really help minimize psoriasis flares.
  • Skin Injury: Psoriasis often flares-up in areas of the skin that have been injured (often referred to as the Koebner phenomenon). Things like tattoos, piercings, sunburns, injection sites, cuts, bruises and scratches can all trigger this response.
  • Alcohol: While more research is needed, it is believed that heavy alcohol consumption causes psoriasis flare-ups. Cutting out alcohol may help control psoriasis (and improve other aspects of the skin).
  • Smoking: Like alcohol, smoking is linked to psoriasis flare-ups (as well as early onset aging and skin damage). In fact, its very common for psoriasis suffers who smoke to regularly experience symptom outbreaks along their hands.
  • Medications: Certain medicines are associated with triggering psoriasis. These include common medications for high blood pressure, arthritis, mental disorders, heart disease, and malaria prevention. Its always a good idea to have a dermatologist review any medications you regularly use.
  • Infection: Any infection that affects the immune system can also affect psoriasis symptoms. Even common infections like strep throat, staph, yeast infections, and thrush can trigger symptoms.

Laura Buford, MD

Laura Buford, MD attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, where she earned a Doctor of Medicine with Special Distinction. Dr. Buford is active in various medical organizations including the American Academy of Dermatology, the Texas Medical Association, and the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. Her professional interests include adult and pediatric medical dermatology, skin cancer prevention and treatment, and cosmetic dermatology.


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