People with psoriasis often have periods of time with few or only mild symptoms. They are also likely to have periods of time with more symptoms, and these are known as flares.
Psoriasis is different for everyone. One person may find that temperature triggers a psoriasis flare. For others, the temperature may not affect their symptoms, but stress may cause a flare.
11 psoriasis triggers
Injured skin can trigger a psoriasis flare.
Research into possible triggers for psoriasis flares is ongoing. There is evidence to suggest that certain factors can trigger flares in many people, including:
- injury to the skin
Some triggers link to a person's overall health. Those who are overweight, regularly drink alcohol, or smoke may have more frequent or severe psoriasis flares than others.
Other triggers may not have a clear scientific link to flares, but people with psoriasis report that they cause flares, such as changes in temperature, weather, and diet.
Read on for 11 factors that may trigger psoriasis flares:
Stress can cause a person to have an outbreak of psoriasis for the first time. It can also provoke a psoriasis flare.
Finding ways to manage stress can help avoid flares. Some ways to reduce stress might include exercise, meditation, or attending a support group.
Doctors have linked certain medications to psoriasis flares, including:
- antimalarial drugs, such as Plaquenil or chloroquine
- Inderal, which people take for high blood pressure
- indomethacin, a drug prescribed for arthritis
- lithium, which people take for psychiatric disorders
- quinidine, a heart medication
A flare caused by medication may not happen right away. It may appear several weeks after someone begins to take a course of drugs.
It is crucial to remember that these drugs are often key to treating medical conditions. If a person stops taking them, it could impact their health.
Instead, it is often better to continue to take the medication, and to seek guidance from a doctor or dermatologist who will be able to advise on whether medication may be causing a psoriasis flare.
In some cases, a medical professional may be able to offer alternative medication that does not cause psoriasis flares.
A person may experience a psoriasis flare 2 to 6 weeks after they have had an infection. Infections affect the immune system, and what causes psoriasis is closely linked to the immune system.
Common examples of infections that can cause a psoriasis flare include:
Psoriasis is more likely to affect skin that a person has injured. Such injuries could include:
- cuts, bruises, or scratches
- bug bites
- a vaccination
Quickly treating the injury can speed up healing and avoid a psoriasis flare. The flare might not happen immediately but could appear 10 to 14 days after someone injured their skin.
Smoking is harmful to a person's overall health, and tobacco can cause a psoriasis flare. Smoking can also make medication used to treat psoriatic arthritis less effective.
Smoking may increase a person's risk for developing psoriasis, but more research is needed before scientists fully understand the link.
Consuming alcohol can make psoriasis medications less effective.
Drinking alcohol can interfere with some psoriasis medications, such as methotrexate. Doctors most often use methotrexate to treat psoriatic arthritis.
Consuming too much alcohol could make symptoms worse and may prevent a flare from receding.
Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is likely to help a person manage their psoriasis symptoms.
7. Weight gain
Recent research by the National Psoriasis Foundation looked at the link between psoriasis and diet. The key finding was that people who have psoriasis and are overweight are likely to be more at risk of severe symptoms.
The recommendation was that a person who is overweight should reduce the number of calories in their diet so that they lose weight. This should improve symptoms of psoriasis over time.
The foods that people eat may influence their psoriasis symptoms.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, studies suggest that some people with psoriasis notice improvements after cutting out alcohol, gluten, and nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant.
9. Hormonal changes
A 2013 study suggests that changes in hormone levels in females may cause psoriasis symptoms.
Psoriasis flares tend to occur at times when the levels of certain hormones are low, such as during puberty, menopause, and after giving birth. Psoriasis symptoms may improve during pregnancy when some hormone levels are higher.
Some people find that certain types of weather or changes in temperature can trigger their psoriasis.
Some suspect that their psoriasis flares may link to a drop in humidity and temperature. Protecting skin from cold or dry weather, and using a humidifier in the home, may help to reduce flares.
Warm weather and sun exposure can also cause flares in some people.
11. Tattoos and piercings
Psoriasis may develop on the skin shortly after someone gets a tattoo or piercing because of the injury done to the skin.
A person with psoriasis may choose to avoid getting tattoos or piercings.
Causes of psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system is not working as it should.
In people who do not have psoriasis, the body creates new skin cells and moves them to the surface of the skin around once a month. For people with psoriasis, this process can happen every few days.
It is not clear what causes the condition, but a person's genes play a role. Psoriasis is often inherited, and it is likely that genetics combine with other triggers to cause the disease.
How to avoid triggers
Covering the skin in cold weather can help prevent psoriasis flares.
People can avoid many of the triggers for psoriasis. The first step is to find out what causes flares, and then take steps to reduce them. The specific triggers differ from people-to-person.
Trying to avoid injuries and protecting skin in cold or dry weather may help some people to avoid a psoriasis flare.
Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake will have a positive impact on a person's health, as well as potentially reducing their psoriasis symptoms. Reducing stress where possible may also help reduce symptoms.
Although diet may reduce symptoms for some people, there is no clear link between certain foods and psoriasis. Even if making dietary changes has a positive impact, it is still important to seek treatment for psoriasis symptoms.
A person who has recently had a diagnosis of psoriasis may be unsure of their individual triggers. Keeping a note of any flares, and trying to spot a pattern of the triggers can help.
Once a person knows what their flare triggers are, it becomes easier for them to avoid these, and to reduce the number of psoriasis flares they experience.
Tips for managing flares
Quickly treating a flare can help reduce symptoms and ease discomfort. Most people treat their psoriasis symptoms with creams applied to the skin. Doctors may treat severe psoriasis with UV therapy or oral medication.
Keeping the skin moisturized can help control psoriasis flares and prevent some discomfort. Using warm water rather than hot water to bath or shower can help reduce skin irritation.
Psoriasis is usually a long-term or lifelong condition. Certain factors are likely to trigger flares in psoriasis symptoms, including weather, medications, stress, and skin injuries.
Understanding and avoiding individual triggers and accessing treatment can reduce the impact that psoriasis has on a person's life.