Coping With Psoriasis

Show Article Table of Contents

Coping with psoriasis obviously means dealing with the various symptoms that come with it and doing all you can to reduce flares, but it can also involve directing much-needed attention toward the impact the condition can have on your life. Psoriasis cannot be cured, but it can be managed, and—over time—you can find the strategies that work best for you and adjust to life with this chronic condition.

Emotional

If you have psoriasis, you may feel ashamed of your condition or embarrassed about the appearance of your skin. You also may feel stigmatized by others who don't understand what psoriasis is or who think it's contagious like chickenpox or other illnesses that cause visible skin lesions.

All of this can contribute to problems such as anxiety or depression, which are more common in people with psoriasis than in people who don’t have the disease. If you're really struggling with emotional issues caused by your psoriasis, see a social worker or therapist. With talk therapy, coping strategies, and even medication, you may be able to overcome the negative impact on your mental health.

Physical

When it comes to potential challenges, psoriasis is an equal-opportunity disorder, affected by or having an impact on everything from the weather to your sex life.

Weather and Temperature Extremes

Weather and climate can have a significant impact on psoriasis. Skin usually fares better in spring and summer than in winter, as there's more intense sunlight and temperatures are warmer.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun acts as an immunosuppressive, helping to keep the formation of plaques under control. And warmer air tends to hold moisture better than cooler air, which can be healing for very dry skin. Wearing lightweight cotton clothing, rather than synthetic fabrics, on warm days can further help.

It may feel good to take a dip in a swimming pool on a warm day, but note that heavy concentrations of chlorine in pool water can irritate inflamed plaques and also dry out skin. If you take a dip, rinse off thoroughly afterward. On the other hand, swimming in the ocean actually can help psoriatic skin: Some people find it helps slough off scales. In either case, a post-swim moisturizer is a must.

In winter, air can be dry inside and out. Use humidifiers throughout your home, especially the bedroom. Adding live plants to your living space also can increase environmental humidity.

Sleep

Night often poses special problems when you have psoriasis. You may be able to stop yourself from scratching your skin during waking hours, but it's easy to unconsciously rake at itchy lesions when you're asleep. As a result, you may wake to blood stains or white flecks (skin scales that have shed) on your sheets or a flare of symptoms called the Koebner phenomenon, in which injured skin turns into patches of psoriasis.

Discomfort from psoriasis also can interfere with quality sleep, which can set you up for a vicious cycle: Sleep-deprivation can cause stress, which in turn is a common trigger for psoriasis. Here are some tips for dealing with sleep issues when you have psoriasis:

  • Protect your patches. Coat inflamed and itchy areas with a rich moisturizer. Covering them with plastic wrap (or wearing cotton gloves on your hands or socks on your feet, if those areas are affected) not only will protect them from your fingernails, but also help to soften skin. Keeping your nails short will also make them less likely to damage your skin if you scratch. 
  • Head off itching. When you're feeling especially itchy, try taking an antihistamine that has a sedative effect before you go to bed. While it's not a good idea to rely on these medications, an occasional antihistamine is taken at night during bad psoriasis outbreaks usually is OK. Of course, check with your doctor first.
  • Skip the nightcap or the coffee. Both alcohol and caffeine can interfere with sleep so avoid both before bedtime. Drinking a lot is also a potential psoriasis trigger. 

Sexuality 

According to a 2007 study in the journal Dermatology, one-third to two-thirds of psoriasis patients experience sexual problems, in part because of the discomfort of their disease. 

Psoriasis that affects the genitals, whether on the labia, penis, or scrotum, generally doesn't flake as much as elsewhere, but it can cause intense itching. Because skin in these intimate regions tends to be delicate, non-steroidal creams and ointments are usually the best options for easing itching. 

If you're a man with genital psoriasis you may find that intercourse is more comfortable if you wear a condom. Apply a lubricant before putting on the condom. And regardless of your sex, if you are using psoriasis medication on your genital area, thoroughly wash it off before being intimate and reapply afterward. 

Though not a physical symptom of psoriasis, self-image and sexual confidence concerns can also impact sexual relations. Emotional support, the guidance of a therapist, and honest conversations with your partner can help.

Social

Since psoriasis is chronic and has no cure, and it can be quite visible, it can be discouraging. But surrounding yourself with people who support you, and leaning on them, can help. In fact, a 2012 study found that among more than one hundred people with psoriasis, those who said they had a lot of social support reported having "significantly higher quality of life, lower depression levels, and higher acceptance of life with the disease."

In particular, you may find it helpful to connect with and learn from those who have psoriasis just like you. There are plenty of support groups for folks who want to share or find information and advice for dealing with various challenges associated with the condition.

Your doctor, local hospital, or medical center may be able to refer you to an in-person group where you can meet others with psoriasis face to face. TalkPsoriasis.org is an excellent place to find online support. This site, which is part of the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), defines itself as "the world's largest online support community of people impacted by psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis" and allows you to connect with other patients, as well as doctors and clinicians.

While you may be hesitant to talk about your psoriasis outside of a set of trusted friends, there are some situations in which doing so may serve you well—for example, if others' thoughts about your psoriasis (right or wrong) may impact your work or personal life. For example, you may want to talk about your condition with a potential employer if you are applying for work in a field where he or she may be concerned that whatever is affecting your skin is contagious, such as food service of child care. An open discussion can dispel myths and ease worries. This same tactic might be helpful at the beginning of a new relationship.

Practical

If you have psoriasis on parts of your body that you'd like to camouflage or cover up, the best ways to do that will depend on the location and severity of the lesions. Here are some general tips:

  • Moisturize. The importance of doing this every day or even twice a day cannot be overstated. Moisturizing calms skin and can dramatically improve its appearance. 
  • Remove scales. If moisturizing alone isn't enough, there are ways to remove scales to help make skin look better. One effective option is to soak in a lukewarm tub of water and then gently scrub your skin with a loofah or use a mild over-the-counter soap that contains salicylic acid, an ingredient that promotes mild peeling.
  • Pamper your ears. If psoriasis affects your ears, don't try to scrape away scales with a cotton swab or other sharp object. You may push skin debris into your ear canal. Sometimes a drop of olive oil in each ear daily will help wax and skin debris move 
  • Use a concealer. Although you should never cover skin that's cracked or bleeding with makeup, a carefully chosen shade of concealer or foundation can help hide redness on skin that's smooth. If regular makeup doesn't work for you, a special brand made to conceal burns and scars, such as Dermablend or Covermark, may do the trick.
  • Dress strategically. If severe scaling is a big problem for you, wear light colors: Flakes of skin will be considerably less obvious on pale fabrics than on dark ones. Scarves and shawls can cover psoriasis on the neck, chest, and upper arms. To draw the gaze away from patches on arms and legs, accessorize with eye-catching earrings or a colorful tie or pocket handkerchief.
Was this page helpful?
View Article Sources