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18th May, 20203 min read

Psoriasis: 5 common triggers (and how to avoid them)

Medical reviewer:Healthily's medical team
Author:Alex Bussey
Last reviewed: 19/05/2020
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Psoriasis is a condition that causes dry, scaly red patches to appear on your skin.

It occurs when your body produces new skin cells more quickly than usual, and research suggests this is caused by problems with your immune system.

If you have psoriasis, you may notice that your symptoms flare-up in response to a trigger like stress, smoking or sunburn -- or you may find the condition gets worse in colder, drier weather.

Triggers vary from person to person, so knowing what affects you is key to managing symptoms -- and some tiggers are more common than others.

Injuries to the skin

Cuts, scrapes, insect bites and sunburn can all trigger psoriasis. If you know that injuring your skin triggers psoriasis, you may want to:

  • cover exposed skin and wear shoes when you’re outdoors
  • apply sunscreen or insect repellant regularly
  • wear thick gloves when gardening or handling sharp tools
  • apply a moisturising cream to your skin every day

Try not to scratch the skin. If your skin is itchy, apply a cold compress to the affected area.

Stress

Stress can increase the chance of a flare-up or make your symptoms worse.

You can help to manage stress by practicing mindfulness, yoga or deep breathing exercises.

Try to exercise regularly as physical activity can also reduce stress.

There are many ways to deal with stress, but if you’re finding it hard to cope with events in your life, you may want to discuss this with a doctor.

Drinking too much alcohol

Heavy drinking can trigger a flare-up of psoriasis, so it’s important to limit your intake - women should stick to no more than 1 drink a day and men should not exceed more than 2 drinks per day.

Alcohol may also interfere with some of the medications that are used to treat psoriasis, so it’s important to discuss this with a doctor.

If you find it hard to cut down on alcohol, aim to have 2 or 3 alcohol-free days every week.

You can find more guidance on alcohol limits and tips on how to cut down in our article on how much alcohol is too much.

Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing psoriasis, and your risk may increase in line with how many cigarettes you smoke each day.

It’s not clear why smoking is strongly associated with psoriasis, but it may be due to the effect that nicotine has in altering the immune system.

If you have psoriasis and think that smoking is a trigger, quitting may help.

If you need support to quit smoking, speak to a doctor. They can put you in touch with specialist support and let you know of any replacement therapies that may help.

Throat infections

Psoriasis can get worse following a throat (strep) infection. You can’t avoid getting a bacterial throat infection completely, but you may be able to reduce your risk by:

  • practicing good hand hygiene
  • avoiding close contact with people who are sick

What to do about psoriasis

If you’re worried about psoriasis or its symptoms affect your daily life, see a doctor, as a range of treatments are available. These include:

  • Topical creams and ointments
  • Phototherapy with UV light
  • Oral and injected medications

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