From Men’s Health
A psoriasis flare-up can affect every part of your daily life—the discomfort can be so bad, it’s hard to focus on anything else. And it doesn’t just feel like it’s taking over; it actually does affect your whole body.
“Psoriasis is a condition in which your immune system attacks your own skin, causing moderate to severe inflammation,” explains Sarah Dolder, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Greenwich Point Dermatology. It most commonly manifests as scaly patches, but it can also be associated with painful arthritis in the joints.
While there is no cure for the disease, science has made huge strides in giving patients ways to mitigate some of that itching, including prescription treatments, so they can get back to living life. “These newer drugs have minimal, if any, side effects and are revolutionary in clearing psoriasis disease activity,” Dr. Dolder says.
To help you deal with your next flare-up (and potentially avoid one altogether) , we asked Dr. Dolder the best ways to get back to feeling comfortable in your own skin, from drugs and topical treatments to lifestyle management changes. Here are five strategies to remember when you and your skin need it most.
Keep stress to a minimum
Keeping your skin in top shape requires examining every part of your life. “Stress is a big contributor in psoriasis flares, so adopting a lifestyle with regular exercise, healthy diet, good sleep patterns, and relaxation can really help,” Dr. Dolder recommends.
In rare cases, psoriasis can be associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases, she continues. So it’s also important to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol even when you’re not focused on mitigating or calming symptoms.
Reach for topical treatments
In general, Dr. Dolder says, a combination of topical prescriptions and UV therapy is the first line of defense against itchy psoriasis flares. Relief might also be found in less likely places: One study published in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences found that some mild to moderate cases may be successfully managed with topical application of honey and/or aloe vera.
Get some vitamin D
Getting outside is a great way to keep symptoms at bay. However, whenever dealing with the skin and sun, it’s always important to remember to wear protective clothing and sunscreen. “Sunlight exposure in small doses and with adequate protection, and vitamin D, can also minimize flares,” Dr. Dolder says.
If you aren’t able to spend time in natural sunlight, talk to your doctor about taking vitamin D supplements and trying phototherapy to help. A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences echoes Dr. Dolder’s suggestion that these remedies, among others, can help mild to moderate psoriasis.
Turn to oral options
If and when topical treatments don’t seem to be working, or aren’t working well enough, doctors will often consider prescribing oral medication, Dr. Dolder explains. And while it’s still unclear how effective oral treatments can be in the long term, according to one study, it’s evident that they work pretty reliably in the short term as long as the patient is actively taking them.
Care for your scalp
If your psoriasis is making your scalp itchy, don’t treat it like a case of dandruff. Instead, reach for the right hair-care products to provide some relief. “OTC tar and selenium-sulfide shampoo can reduce scalp flaking,” says Dr. Dolder. Brands commonly found at the drugstore or online retailers can help ease symptoms.
Talk to Your Doctor About Biologics
If your psoriasis is more severe and other options aren’t working, it may be time to look into biologic treatments, which work within your body to stop the reaction that causes the painful skin condition. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these treatments, which are injectable (in other words, given via shot or IV), can be safe and very effective in certain patients. And while the specific drug that’s right for you is between you and your doctor, scientists are excited about the increasing number of options available.
Dr. Dolder agrees: “These new biologic treatments for psoriasis are very effective in blocking the impaired part of the immune system that causes rapid turnover of skin cells, resulting in psoriasis flare-ups,” she says. “These targeted therapies have a low side effect profile and are often life-changing in their dramatic ability to clear patients of their psoriasis.”
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