Triggers and Flare-ups for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, where the person’s own immune system attacks their body. However, there is very little information available as to what causes psoriasis. The condition is very complex, in that although a number of immune mediators, such as cytokines; TNF-a, IL-12/23, IL-24 are shown to be responsible for the symptoms of the condition, the exact cause and the role of the immune system in causing the cells to proliferate in a much faster rate than normal as in the case of plaque psoriasis and other forms of the disease is not fully understood.
Triggers of psoriasis flare-ups:
It is important to always bear in mind that psoriasis is an autoimmune condition and once the immune system has been activated, it will continue to remain active, as it recognises self as non-self and remains activated against itself. So to remain psoriasis free, one needs to be wary of certain triggers that can and will cause a psoriasis flare-up.
Common Triggers for Psoriasis:
As stated earlier, any triggers that induce an immune response can potentially cause a flare-up and in my opinion infections should be listed as the first in the list of common triggers in causing a flare-up. Obviously, certain common infections are also more closely associated with flare-ups than others, these include: strep throat (Streptococcal pharyngitis), thrush (Candida albicans), and upper respiratory infections. People suffering from psoriasis should always be aware of infections and if they suspect any of these infections, they should seek treatment to reduce the chances of a flare-up.
Also any allergic reaction causing scratching and damage to the skin, as well insect bites and other skin injuries, can cause a flare-up. Often there are new psoriasis lesions near cuts and scrapes or insect bites. It is difficult to circumnavigate all or most of these triggers, but one can try to reduce the chances of reducing the incidences of these triggers.
Food as triggers
If you have intolerance to certain food, for example you are lactose intolerant, then you should refrain from eating food containing these ingredients. Also certain foodstuffs that are fatty or contain gluten can also cause a flare-up. The immune system is a holistic system, providing protection across your entire body. Therefore, if you are allergic to certain foodstuffs, they will initiate an immune response; as seen with peanut allergy. You may be less intolerant to other foodstuffs, but invariably they can initiate an immune response, which in turn will cause a flare-up.
There has long been an association between consumption of alcoholic beverages and psoriasis. This can vary from person to person, but it has been shown that different types of alcoholic beverages affect different people in different ways.
Effects of the Sun
This is an interesting paradox, where many people use sun bathing, particularly in the Dead Sea area, as a therapy to manage their psoriasis, but paradoxically if the sun bathing therapy burns that person, this will in turn induce an immune response and a flare-up. The amount of sun required to help your psoriasis and not cause damage, is very much dependent on the person and they should monitor their exposure to sun and beware of causing sunburn.
Effect of weather
Often cold dry weather can cause a flare-up. Autumn is a period most psoriasis patients have a flare-up or their condition becomes worse. During these times, it is important to use hydrating moisturizing creams or greasy moisturizing creams to prevent moisture loss through the skin. Use of humidifiers may help maintain a good living environment and also reduce moisture loss.
Anyone who suffers from psoriasis knows, that when they are stressed, they will invariably have a flare-up. It appears stress and psoriasis go hand in hand. So one might ask, if psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, why is stress causing a flare-up. Again it is important to bear in mind that the health of the body is a holistic affair and stress will cause some sort of immunological reaction, which in turn will induce a psoriasis flare-up.
There are many ways of reducing stress or relieving stress, including meditation, yoga etc. or whatever works for you to keep cool.
Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, which are used for high blood pressure, steroidal medicines and pills taken to stop malaria can have an effect on autoimmune response and at times can cause a severe flare-up. Interestingly, steroidal products are used as treatment therapy for psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions. Although they can be useful short-term remedies, in the longer term, they often lead to steroid dependency and consequently steroid withdrawal effect, which in itself can be quite severe and debilitating.
Smoking causes damage to your lungs, thereby inducing an immune response. Tobacco can increase your risk of psoriasis and also make your symptoms more severe.
Obesity and other triggers
Being overweight can increase the risk of psoriasis as well as make the symptoms worse. A study in JAMA Dermatology in 2013 found a link between a low-calorie diet and decreased flare-ups.