Woman is looking at her facial rash in the mirror

What Are Common Triggers for Psoriasis?

5 Surprising Psoriasis Triggers

There are several well-defined psoriasis triggers. If you’re having a hard time managing your condition, despite taking medications, it may be time to take a look at your life and see what you can modify.

As a nurse who also happens to have a chronic condition, I’ve learned something recently – all of the medication in the world can’t prevent a chronic condition from flaring up if something else is out of sync in our lives.

Triggers for chronic conditions will vary between individuals, but in this article we're looking at five different psoriasis triggers that are quite common.

1. The Weather

The weather can play a big part in how your psoriasis “acts” – cold, dry weather is known to cause psoriasis to flare up, or exacerbate.

The lack of moisture in the air causes the skin to not to retain moisture – and then fissures in the skin also occur. Psoriasis is likely to happen in areas of the skin where trauma to the skin has occurred – such as the fissures in the skin.

Notably, you may notice that warm, humid weather can provide psoriatic skin a temporary reprieve. This is because the humidity in the air provides extra moisture to the skin.

2. Stress

Although having psoriasis itself is stressful, excess stress can worsen psoriasis. It is thought that stress causes an inflammatory response in the body, which then triggers an exacerbation of psoriasis.

If stress is a known trigger for your psoriasis, managing it is key. For example, developing a regular exercise, meditation, yoga, talking to friends and family, and psoriasis support groups are all great methods of managing stress.

However, if the stress gets to be too much and impacting your overall quality of life, speak with your physician. Alternatively, you can attend therapy to help manage stress.

3. Smoking and Drinking

We’re not sure exactly why drinking and smoking can worsen psoriasis, but both are thought to worsen symptoms.

Experts believe that moderate intake of alcohol is probably not harmful, but heavy use can trigger the body’s inflammatory response – which in turn, “turns on” the system that flares psoriasis.

Also, a 2012 literature review in American Journal of Epidemiology found that active smokers were more likely to suffer from psoriasis than nonsmokers – all the more reason to quit smoking (as if you needed another reason!)

If you need help with quitting drinking, please contact your physician for a rehabilitation program. You can also contact your physician for smoking cessation assistance.

4. Certain Medications

Certain medications are known to trigger psoriasis. These medications include certain anti-malarial medications, certain beta blockers used to treat heart disease, and lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric disorders.

Sometimes, these medications are necessary – your doctor weighs the pros and cons and decides that it is more important to prescribe these medications, despite the havoc it may cause to your skin.

Cortisone, a steroid medication, can then be used to treat the exacerbation. It can be used topically or systemically – meaning it can be applied to the skin, or taken orally. However, if the medication is taken orally, it can worsen psoriasis when it is discontinued.

5. Skin Injuries

Trauma to the skin can also exacerbate psoriasis. For example, if you have had surgery or an infection, you may note that upon healing, your psoriasis worsens in this area.

It is also noteworthy that psoriasis tends to be more prominent on the elbows and knees – these areas of our bodies withstand a lot of use. Psoriasis also tends to occur after a sunburn, a vaccine, and even an insect bite.

Being proactive can be helpful – this means keeping the skin moist by applying lotion daily. Experts believe using an oil-based lotion is better than using a water-based lotion, and continually apply if needed.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, it is difficult to avoid these triggers 100% of the time. It is inevitable, for example, that you’ll be stressed at some point in time, that winter will come, and you’ll have to “weather” the snowstorms, and perhaps your psoriasis will flare a time or two.

You may have to have an emergent surgery and have an exacerbation at your surgical site. However, there are certain things you can work on – such as your response to stress, as well as your decision to smoke and drink.