Various factors can trigger psoriasis. Examples include diet, stress, and hormonal changes. There are ways to manage psoriasis flares, including using moisturizer and medications, and bathing in warm rather than hot water.

People with psoriasis may have periods of remission when there are mild or very few symptoms and flares when the symptoms are more severe. Individuals can find that specific factors increase their risk of a flare.

Psoriasis is different for everyone. What triggers the symptoms for one person may have little or no effect on another.

This article discusses key psoriasis triggers, how to avoid them, and how to manage flares.

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Experts have found no evidence to suggest that a specific diet or food type will help improve the symptoms of psoriasis.

However, research from 2019 suggests that following a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods can boost overall health and support the immune system, which has links with psoriasis.

For this reason, some foods and dietary habits may be worth investigating.

Foods to avoid

One 2020 study suggests that limiting or avoiding the following foods may help:

  • red meat
  • simple sugars
  • foods containing gluten, in some cases

People should speak with a healthcare professional before starting a gluten-free diet or making other major dietary changes. Not all of these claims have scientific backing, and some diets may not be suitable for certain individuals. Guidelines from 2018 recommend only considering a gluten-free diet if blood tests show that a person has gluten sensitivity.

In a 2020 study, mice that ate a diet high in fat and sugar developed skin inflammation after 4 weeks. The researchers suggest this may be due to an increase in bile acids. The skin inflammation improved when researchers gave the mice cholestyramine, which helps manage bile acids.

Learn more about foods to avoid with psoriasis.

Foods to eat

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), these suggestions may help:

Learn how diet can affect psoriasis.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Alcohol may worsen the symptoms of psoriasis, according to one research article from 2019. The authors suggest that consuming alcohol may affect the barrier function of the skin and trigger inflammation, though more studies are needed to confirm these findings.

The NPF recommends limiting alcohol consumption, if applicable, to one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males.

Learn more about alcohol and psoriasis.

The authors of a 2018 review describe the relationship between psoriasis and stress as “complex.” Their research notes that 31–88% of people with psoriasis say that stress triggers their symptoms.

People also report symptoms first appearing in the year after experiencing a stressful event. The authors say this suggests that stress can cause psoriasis in those who are susceptible to it.

Moreover, the onset of psoriasis can trigger further stress.

The authors of the review report evidence to suggest that the following techniques may help manage stress and its effect on psoriasis:

Learn more about stress and psoriasis.

Some medications may trigger or worsen a psoriasis flare, including:

Anyone who finds that a medication worsens their psoriasis symptoms should ask a healthcare professional for advice, as it may not be safe to stop the medication. The healthcare professional may suggest adjusting the dosage or changing the drug altogether.

Learn more about drugs that can cause psoriasis.

A psoriasis flare may occur 2–6 weeks after experiencing an infection, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Infections affect the immune system, and psoriasis has links with the immune system.

Infections that may trigger a psoriasis flare include:

Learn more about psoriasis and the immune system.

Psoriasis symptoms can flare after a skin injury. The flare may appear 10–14 days after a person sustains a skin injury, according to the AAD.

Some examples of injuries that may trigger symptoms include:

The AAD suggests the following tips to help prevent a flare:

  • using insect repellent to prevent bites
  • avoiding scratching by calming an itch in other ways
  • seeking prompt treatment for any skin trauma

Read about psoriasis and sun exposure.

Smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke are risk factors for immune-related conditions such as psoriasis.

Research from 2019 suggests that these factors can:

  • prompt the development of psoriasis
  • reduce the effectiveness of psoriasis treatment
  • trigger or worsen psoriasis symptoms

The AAD recommends avoiding or quitting smoking, if applicable, and avoiding places where others are smoking. It also advises speaking with a healthcare professional before using a nicotine patch, as this may worsen symptoms.

Learn more about psoriasis and smoking.

In 2018, the medical board of the NPF published guidelines that recommended weight management as an approach to managing psoriasis, as overweight and obesity appear to increase the risk of severe symptoms.

After looking at data for 4,534 people with psoriasis, researchers recommended that people with psoriasis and overweight or obesity include weight management to help maintain a weight that is healthy for the individual.

Learn more about weight management.

One 2016 study suggests that various hormonal factors may affect symptoms of psoriasis.

Symptoms tend to flare around puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, indicating a role of sex hormones. However, the authors also recommend that healthcare professionals bear in mind the following hormones when assessing people with psoriasis:

Learn about hormonal imbalances.

For some people with psoriasis, symptoms worsen with certain weather-related factors, such as:

  • humidity
  • a drop in temperature
  • exposure to air-conditioned environments
  • sun exposure that leads to sunburn

Some tips that may help include:

However, research from 2017 suggests some controlled sun exposure can be beneficial, as it boosts vitamin D levels.

Learn about psoriasis in the different seasons.

Tattoos and piercings are forms of skin injuries. Psoriasis may develop on the skin shortly after someone gets a tattoo or piercing due to the skin trauma it causes. This is known as the Koebner phenomenon.

Research from 2017 looked at 90 people with psoriasis, some with tattoos and some without tattoos. Of those with tattoos, 27.6% experienced a reaction at the tattoo site between 1 week and 15–20 years later. Around 30% of the participants had previous experience of the Koebner phenomenon.

Noting that tattoos can help boost the body image of a person with psoriasis, the study author did not advise avoiding tattoos but rather seeking medical advice before getting one.

Learn more about the Koebner phenomenon.

Supplements do not appear to trigger psoriasis, but some studies suggest that vitamin D and omega-3 supplements may help prevent psoriasis. However, scientific research has not confirmed that these are effective.

Some supplements may not be safe for everyone, so people should always ask a healthcare professional before taking them.

Learn more about vitamins for psoriasis.

It is not always possible to avoid psoriasis triggers, and triggers will vary among individuals. However, awareness of one’s triggers can help people reduce their risk of a flare.

People may find it helpful to try:

  • keeping a log of their symptoms to try and identify specific triggers
  • taking steps to avoid situations that make the symptoms worse, such as exposure to specific foods or smoky environments
  • taking measures to reduce the risk of a flare, such as using sunscreen when outdoors

Read about home remedies for managing psoriasis.

Quickly treating a psoriasis flare can help reduce symptoms and ease discomfort.

Some strategies that may help include:

  • using a suitable moisturizer
  • using medicated shampoos and skin care products
  • avoiding extreme weather conditions
  • bathing in warm water rather than hot water
  • seeking medical advice for persistent or worsening symptoms
  • asking about medications that can help reduce the risk of flares and the severity of symptoms, such as biologic drugs

Learn about preventing psoriasis flares.

Psoriasis is a systemic condition that can cause skin symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity, and certain factors may cause them to flare up. Triggers vary among individuals but typically include certain weather conditions, some medications, stress, and skin injuries.

Identifying and avoiding individual triggers can help people reduce their risk of a flare. For people with moderate to severe symptoms, a healthcare professional can advise on long-term medications, such as a biologic drug, to help manage the condition.

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Psoriasis resources

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