Pulling the Trigger on Psoriasis
As August is Psoriasis Awareness Month, the physicians and staff of Knoxville Dermatology Group hope to share their knowledge and insight through this blog about this skin condition that affects so many, yet receives so little attention. Psoriasis causes the life cycle of new skin to form within a few days, as opposed to several weeks. As a result, skin cell buildup causes red patches and silvery skin, which may or may not be painful. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, two to three percent of the world’s population is affected with psoriasis, as well as between six to seven percent of all Americans. There is no cure for this disease, but it can be managed by identifying and avoiding certain triggers.
Stress and Hormones
If having a demanding and stressful lifestyle isn’t enough, psoriasis flare-ups can certainly add to your anxiety. Scientific studies have proven that psoriasis can worsen and increase itching under stress. Dermatologists recommend patients seeking to relieve stress to join psychological counseling or a support group. In addition, herbal remedies and food supplements that affect mood and anxiety should be considered.
Though little is known about how hormones affect the condition, research has shown that cases of psoriasis first appear at the onset of puberty when hormone levels change. During pregnancy, due to fluctuating hormones, psoriasis can either improve or worsen. A study has shown over half of pregnant women with the condition saw an improvement. Less than 25% experienced worsening. Upon delivery, more than 60% saw their psoriasis worsen.
Psoriasis becomes more severe during the winter season. Because winter weather is cold and dry, skin is depleted of its moisture, which worsens psoriasis. Air-conditioning can also dry out the skin and cause flare-ups. The best way to combat these conditions is to MOISTURIZE.
Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
Research confirms smoking can trigger the skin condition as well. Psoriasis is an immunologically mediated disease in which its functions in the body can be altered by Nicotine. Furthermore, smokers are more likely to develop pustular psoriasis on the palms and soles. An additional factor with regards to smoking is stress. Finding ways to alleviate stress and resources to quit smoking can help control the condition.
Recent studies have added heavy drinking to the list of triggers for psoriasis. Some reports suggest that in some predisposed individuals, even a small quantity of alcohol can trigger a flare-up. According to Dr. Hanish Babu, MD, a contributor to “Suite 101.com: Psoriasis,” alcohol acts as a triggering event and “may also adversely affect response to treatment in psoriasis parents.” Like smoking, quitting alcohol consumption is suggested to clear psoriasis.
Sadly, there are some foods that exacerbate psoriasis. Red meats, sea foods and milk may contain traces of medications like iodides that can induce reactions in those predisposed to psoriasis. Some suggest supplements such as grape seed extract, olive leaf extract, Ester C and shark cartilage may benefit psoriasis; however, no scientific evidence can support these claims yet.
Celebrity Kim Kardashian recently revealed she was diagnosed with psoriasis, and that has brought new attention to the ancient skin condition. Over a thousand years ago the Greek word “Psora” which means “to itch,” was coined by the Greek physician Galen to describe psoriasis. However, in the past hundred years medications have been developed by pharmaceutical companies, as well as physicians, to manage the symptoms and frequency of this chronic illness. In the 20s, doctors used tar and Ultra-Violet light to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. During the 50s, steroids were used widely for the first time. Today, skin care professionals have become savvy to the link between a person’s environment and flare-ups. For example, detergent and household cleaners, as well as lotions with many artificial ingredients can trigger a flare-up, whereas washing with mild, hypo-allergenic soap, and moisturizing the skin frequently can help maintain balanced, rash-free skin. Anti-inflammatory medications, topical fungal creams, antibiotics and anti-histamines are all used to treat psoriasis, and recently the FDA approved Topical Immunomodulators (TIMs).
For more information or to schedule an appointment contact Knoxville Dermatology Group at 865.690.9467.