If you’re living with psoriasis, you probably already know that the condition can cause a great deal of discomfort and increase your risk for other serious health issues. On top of that, the greatest challenge you face may be the emotional toll that comes along with this disorder.
Current estimates suggest that psoriasis affects more than 7 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. The most noticeable symptoms are usually red patches on the skin that have a silvery coating. These plaques occur when ordinary skin cells start shedding much faster than usual.
While the condition can be difficult to treat, there are many coping strategies that can help. Take a look at these suggestions to help you manage psoriasis and enjoy a higher quality of life.
- Understand your immune system. It’s important to keep in mind that psoriasis is more than a skin disorder. It’s actually a disease of the immune system, which can cause inflammation throughout your body and put you at higher risk for diabetes, stroke, and heart conditions.
- Deal with stress. There appears to be a very close link between psoriasis and tension. Flare-ups can often be traced back to disturbing events. Plus, the burden of dealing with psoriasis can contribute to anxiety and depression.
- Seek support. Fortunately, help is available. Ask your doctor or browse online to find support groups where you can connect with other psoriasis patients. Let your family and friends know how they can support you.
- Consider medication. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be used to treat psoriasis. Your doctor may recommend antidepressants, pain medication, antihistamines, or steroids to treat physical and mental symptoms.
- Manage pain naturally. You may also want to experiment with various practices that can reduce your sensitivity to pain. Some options include yoga, meditation, and acupuncture.
- Relieve itching. Psoriatic itch is sometimes described as a biting and burning sensation. Instead of risking more damage by scratching, ask your doctor about medications or try relaxation practices and cold packs.
- Try biologics. Biologics are a special kind of drug that target specific parts of the immune system. While they can have side effects and make take a few months to work, they can have a dramatic impact on reducing inflammation, if your doctor decides they’re appropriate for you.
- Change your diet. Eating nutritious whole foods may be even more important when you have psoriasis. Many vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fish are rich in anti-inflammatory properties.
- Lose weight. Being overweight can make psoriasis more severe. Eat less and exercise more to slim down safely.
- Limit alcohol. Heavy drinking can also aggravate your symptoms. If you take certain medications, you may also need to avoid alcohol completely.
- Watch the weather. Be prepared for seasonal changes that can affect your condition. Cold and dry weather tends to trigger flare-ups while warm sunny days may make patches and scales disappear.
- Care for your skin. Effective skin care can help keep you comfortable year round. Look for medicated shampoos and thick moisturizers with urea or lactic acid.
- Protect your joints. As many as 30% of psoriasis patients develop arthritis. You can lower your odds or reduce swelling and stiffness by making healthy choices like exercising regularly, watching your weight, and avoiding processed foods.
There’s still no cure for psoriasis, but there have been impressive advances in research in recent years. While science is working on a solution, you can manage your symptoms and take greater control of your life by making healthy choices and seeing your doctor regularly.