Psoriasis may look like just a scaly skin condition, but it's a disease of the immune system. People with psoriasis produce too much of a protein called tumor necrosis factor -- TNF -- which causes skin cells to grow too quickly. These skin cells build up into scaly red patches that can itch and even bleed or blister. It is an idiosyncratic disease, often getting worse or improving for no apparent reason. Certain factors tend to trigger flareups, though:
Psoriasis is more likely to occur in dry skin, so diligently keeping skin moisturized and hydrated is a proactive way to avoid flareups. If your condition is chronic, avoid shower scrubs; they not only damage the skin surface by leaving miniscule scratches, but they also scrape off natural skin oils. Lotions that promote oil gland function are beneficial.
Dry air is a common irritant to people with psoriasis, so using a humidifier might help, too.
Because it removes moisture from skin cells, too much sun can trigger an outbreak. Be cautious about overdoing it, and always wear a moisturizing, protective sunscreen. Too little sun irritates psoriasis, as well. In some cases, a doctor may treat the irritated patches of skin with phototherapy. The trick is in finding the right balance for your skin.
Treat cuts, burns and insect bites immediately; they can trigger a loss of moisture or an infection that may accelerate the onset of a psoriasis outbreak.
Strep throat, upper respiratory and other viral infections affect the immune system and can bring on episodes of psoriasis.
Beta blockers, lithium and certain drugs that fight malaria can cause problems in psoriasis suffers. Talk to your doctor about your prescriptions.
Stress may just be the single most important trigger for psoriasis outbreaks. Learning relaxation techniques that help you minimize anxiety will always improve your quality of life; if you suffer from psoriasis, you stand even more to gain. Whether it's a relaxing ritual of deep breathing, yoga or a candlelit soak in the tub, strategies to control and reduce stress will make you less likely to suffer constant episodes of psoriasis.
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