Managing Psoriasis During the Winter: A Strategy for Surviving

Parwaaz Matharoo
Parwaaz Matharoo
The author is an experienced Dermatologist with interests in general and cosmetic dermatology and dermatosurgery. She is an Assistant Professor at Muzaffarpur Medical College and Hospital.

Psoriasis is a complex chronic and autoimmune disease that predominantly affects skin and joints. In the digital era, we all know psoriasis is a skin disorder. We do not care a lot about it until it directly/indirectly affects us. Let us leave the details about the underlying pathology to experts like dermatologists and have a discussion or shall I call it “skintervention” about some basic information related to the disorder and some DOs and DONTs that may help you deal with psoriasis during the winter season.

What should we know about psoriasis?

Prevalence of psoriasis

Psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune skin disorder, affects a significant portion of the world’s population, with estimates indicating a prevalence of 2-3%. This condition is not limited by age, impacting both adults and children across diverse demographics.

Non-contagious nature

It is crucial to dispel the misconception that psoriasis is contagious. Unlike infections or communicable diseases, psoriasis does not spread through physical contact. This distinction is essential in reducing stigma and promoting a better understanding of the condition.

Psoriasis and pregnancy

One reassuring aspect for individuals with psoriasis is that the condition does not transmit to the child during pregnancy. Pregnant individuals with psoriasis can find solace in the knowledge that their condition does not pose a risk to the well-being of their unborn child.

Treatment options

Despite its chronic nature, psoriasis is manageable, and various treatment options are available. From topical treatments to systemic therapies, the medical community offers a range of interventions to alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with psoriasis. Seeking medical advice is crucial for developing a personalized treatment plan.

Variable presentation

Psoriasis exhibits a diverse range of presentations, but a common manifestation is the appearance of red, itchy plaques covered with silvery-white scales or flakes. The variable nature of psoriasis underscores the importance of tailored treatment approaches, as what works for one individual may differ for another. A holistic understanding of the condition is essential for effective management.

What are the triggers of psoriasis?

There are certain triggers of psoriasis, and it is very important to know them to prevent psoriasis from worsening.

Smoking and alcohol consumption

There is a recognized association between smoking and the development or exacerbation of psoriasis. Smoking not only increases the risk of psoriasis but can also hinder the effectiveness of treatments. Doctors often advise individuals with psoriasis to quit smoking to improve their overall skin health.

Excessive alcohol consumption can be a potential trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. Alcohol can interfere with the efficacy of certain psoriasis medications and may contribute to the inflammatory processes associated with the condition. Moderation or cessation of alcohol intake is often recommended for individuals with psoriasis.

Seasonal variation, especially in winters

Psoriasis symptoms often show seasonal variation, with exacerbations commonly occurring during winter months. The cold, dry air can contribute to skin dryness and irritation, triggering or worsening psoriasis symptoms. Proper skin care measures, including moisturization, become particularly crucial during winter season, especially if you have psoriasis.

Stress

Stress is a well-established trigger for psoriasis flare-ups. Emotional stress can stimulate the immune system and exacerbate inflammation, leading to an increase in psoriatic lesions. Stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises, are often recommended as part of a holistic approach to managing psoriasis.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A higher Body Mass Index (BMI) is associated with an increased risk of developing psoriasis, and it can also influence the severity of the condition. Maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and regular exercise is not only beneficial for overall health but can also contribute to the management of psoriasis.

Trauma

Physical trauma or injury to the skin, a phenomenon known as the Koebner phenomenon, can trigger psoriasis in susceptible individuals. Even minor skin injuries, such as scratches or cuts, can lead to the development of psoriatic lesions at the site of trauma. Careful skin protection is advised to minimize the risk of trauma-induced flare-ups.

Infections

Infections, particularly streptococcal infections, can trigger or exacerbate psoriasis in some individuals. Streptococcal throat infections, in particular, have been linked to the onset of guttate psoriasis. Prompt treatment of infections is essential for managing psoriasis and preventing flare-ups.

Systemic diseases

Psoriasis is associated with an increased risk of certain systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. The interplay between psoriasis and these systemic conditions underscores the importance of comprehensive healthcare management, addressing both skin symptoms and potential comorbidities.

Drugs

Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, lithium, and antimalarial drugs, have been identified as potential triggers for psoriasis or exacerbation of existing symptoms. Individuals with psoriasis must inform their healthcare providers about all medications they are taking to ensure that treatment plans are tailored to their specific needs.

Here are some DOs and DONTs to best psoriasis during winter

The DOs

  • Winter is here, and so is psoriasis. It’s cold and dry everywhere so the best thing you can DO for yourself is moisturise.
  • Choose moisturisers with thicker cream/lotion formulations with paraffin and ceramides as ingredients.
  • Coconut oil or jojoba oil can also work wonders for some. The application should be done within 2-3 minutes of the bath to lock in the moisture. Keeping them in the refrigerator will also provide a cool soothing effect.
  • Psoriasis tends to worsen due to dry air and less exposure to sunlight. Hence, the use of humidifiers in homes/workplaces can help retain some moisture in the air as well as in your skin.
  • Going outside in the morning sun for a few minutes can also be helpful as sunlight consists of ultraviolet radiation UVA and UVB which reduces the immune-mediated inflammation as well as the severity.
  • As it is said If you can’t find the sunshine, be one! Stress is an underrated factor that fuels most of the autoimmune disorders. Meditation and exercise can help cope with that.
  • ALWAYS consult an experienced dermatologist for expert opinion and customised care.

The DONTs

  • Psoriasis being a chronic problem requires persistent management. Patience is the key!
  • DO NOT abruptly stop your medications as you can end up exacerbating the disease.
  • DO NOT delay the initiation of the proper treatment.
  • DO NOT take long hot showers as it will increase the dryness and flakes.
  • DO NOT choose fabrics like wool, synthetics or denim to be in direct contact with the skin. They may cause irritation and hence the urge to scratch.
  • DO NOT discriminate. We are all unique with our own unique set of problems. STOP with the prejudice already, It’s 2024.

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