Psoriasis can be troublesome during more mild seasons, but it’s especially tough to deal with during chilly winters. Cold weather can certainly trigger psoriasis flare ups, but there are several ways to handle them. Read on to find out more.
The skin disease known as psoriasis (which got its name from the Greek word for "itch") is persistent and in severe cases can be painful. Technically, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease caused by the build-up of extra skin cells on the surface of the skin, resulting in scaly red patches.
Psoriasis symptoms include this rash, which can be itchy and sore, as well as swollen joints and pitted nails. Because it’s an autoimmune condition, psoriasis can’t be cured, but psoriasis symptoms can be treated.
Common psoriasis causes include stress, alcohol consumption, and cold air. The dryness of winter can cause psoriasis plaques -- the raised, scaly patches on the skin’s surface -- to crack and potentially get infected. So it’s important to find psoriasis treatment options that work for you and start your winter prepared for flare ups.
There are several topical psoriasis medications out there. Prescription ointments and creams containing steroids (topical corticosteroids) can reduce inflammation, bringing relief. But they can cause thinning of the skin over time, so it’s important to use them sparingly and according to your doctor’s recommendation.
Emollients are another type of over-the-counter psoriasis medication, specifically formulated to reduce itching and dryness. Moisturizing is crucial for psoriasis management and emollients contain a very high moisture content, making them an ideal option for scaly rashes. Stronger, prescription-strength emollients may be prescribed by your doctor.
It’s rare that oral psoriasis medications are needed, but they may be prescribed in severe cases. Typically, these oral medications are retinoids that reduce excess skin cell production.
The XTRAC excimer laser uses a focused beam of laser light to clear psoriasis plaques. XTRAC treatments are performed 2-3 times per week. Patients typically begin to see improvement in 4-6 treatments, with full clearance in 10-20 treatments.
Another psoriasis treatment using light is narrowband UVB light therapy. Since ultraviolet (UV) light slows skin cell growth, NBUVB treatment can help treat psoriasis without the risk of sunburn. Typically, most psoriasis cases require at least 20 sessions, with roughly 2-3 sessions per week.
As far as home treatments go, you might consider making some changes to your bathing habits during the winter months. Longer exposures to hot water can dry out the skin even further. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you limit showers to about 5 minutes and baths to roughly 15 minutes. Use lukewarm water and avoid perfumed products. Instead, use soaps and other products formulated for sensitive skin.
Other lifestyle changes to implement during the winter include avoiding scratchy wool materials and wearing cotton blends instead. Also, using a humidifier at night and applying plenty of thick moisturizers can keep dry skin hydrated.
If you’re in the greater New York City area and your psoriasis is causing you frustration or has become painful or infected, call Vanguard Dermatology today. You can make an appointment with one of our board-certified dermatology experts and get the treatment you need.