Common Triggers of Psoriasis Flare Ups You Never Thought to Worry About

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that appears as a skin disorder. Doctors estimate that ten percent of people inherit the genes that cause psoriasis. Of these, one to three percent actually manifest the disease’s symptoms. Despite its rather uncommon occurrence, there are a great many environmental factors that can trigger a psoriasis flare-up. These vary widely, from certain medications to climate to everyday hazards. For psoriasis sufferers, it is important to be acutely aware of the many different influencers that can trigger a flare-up.

Causes and Symptoms

As with many autoimmune disorders, the precise, specific causes of psoriasis are unknown. However, 25 genetic variants have been identified as increasing a person’s susceptibility. It occurs most commonly in adults who, unsurprisingly, have a family history with the disease. Incidences of psoriasis occur as a result of overactive T cells. These white blood cells normally protect the body and keep it safe from invasive threats like diseases and infections. In psoriasis, T cells attack the sufferer’s skin cells, mistaking the tissue for some malignant, foreign body. This instigates the overproduction of skin cells, whence emerge the symptoms of psoriasis, as well as more T cells, which perpetuates the flare-up. During a flare-up, psoriasis manifests as new skin cells rapidly travel to the outer edge of the epidermis. The result is patches of skin that may itch, burn, and/or sting; these patches are usually uncomfortably dry and may be scaly or cracked, which can also lead to bleeding. Other symptoms include finger and toe nails that are thicker than usual and ridged or pitted, and joints that may be stiff and/or swollen. Unfortunately for psoriasis sufferers, there are a number of triggers that can cause a flare-up. Many of these are common, everyday things that the rest of us take for granted.

Dietary Triggers

There is no direct, concrete evidence regarding how and why certain foods and drinks can affect psoriasis. However, many sufferers insist that alterations in their diet have helped them manage their condition and its flare-ups. Offending foods purportedly include those with high fat content, citrus, and wheat gluten. One of the biggest food-related risks that can exacerbate psoriasis is obesity. While specific foods have not been linked to the disease’s activity, there is evidence that being overweight can increase not only a person’s risk of developing the disease but also increase its severity once it appears. Luckily, this is a two-way street; doctors have observed a correlation between weight loss and a reduction in the severity of psoriatic symptoms. Because fat is an inflammatory tissue, reducing its presence may help prevent systemic inflammation. So, in the final analysis, there may be some truth to the notion that avoiding fatty foods can help ease psoriasis flare-ups and symptoms. A genetic predisposition to psoriasis seems to frequently come hand-in-hand with a predisposition to depression, and a common practice amongst people suffering from depression is to self-medicate with alcohol. Unfortunately, excessive drinking (especially amongst men, moreso than women, with psoriasis) can cause flare-ups. While the exact mechanism behind this is unclear, there is evidence to suggest a causal relationship between drinking and symptoms.

Climatic Triggers

Though there is currently no verified, medical evidence to support the notion, many sufferers of psoriasis claim that certain aspects of the climate can interact with and affect their condition. For some, excessive exposure to the sun can cause a flare-up, especially if it results in a sunburn. Likewise, people in cold, arid climates claim that the temperature and dryness can lead to flare-ups.

Behavioral Triggers

As noted, a propensity toward eating foods with high fat content and toward consuming alcohol have been associated with increased occurrence and severity of psoriatic flare-ups. These are not the only behaviors that can increase the risk and severity of these events. Another addictive habit that can aggravate psoriasis is smoking. Like consuming unhealthy, fatty foods, the use of tobacco increases the risk of developing psoriasis; and like excessive drinking, it can increase the severity of the disease when it appears. Many patients report that flare-ups occur during particularly stressful periods. Thus, minimizing the amount of stress in daily life may help sufferers to experience more infrequent, less-severe flare-ups. Unfortunately, psoriasis itself is something of a stressor, so the onset of symptoms can become self-perpetuating incidents.

Medical Triggers

Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, anything that affects the immune system can influence it and cause flare-ups. Strep throat is particularly associated with psoriasis, and other common triggers include earaches, bronchitis, and tonsillitis. Likewise, minor traumas like scratches, scrapes, and cuts that most of us take for granted can lead to an outbreak of symptoms in a psoriasis sufferer. At the other end of the scale, certain medications can also cause complications with the disease. The use of beta-blockers, antimalarials, and steroidal medicines can increase the frequency and intensity of the disease’s symptoms. Any medication administered by injection can likewise cause a flare-up, thanks to the trauma caused to the skin. Of course, the doctor of any patient suffering psoriasis will try to avoid treatments that might exacerbate the disease. With the help of their physician and by minding the things that can trigger flare-ups, people with psoriasis can lead healthy and pain-free lives.