Managing Psoriasis During the Pandemic

Understanding Risks, Preventive Measures, Psoriasis Care, and More

Living with psoriasis has become even more challenging and stressful due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. If you are feeling worried or overwhelmed during this time, you are not alone.

Fortunately, as time passes, researchers will learn more about how people with autoimmune diseases like psoriasis might be affected by COVID-19. Still, a lot of that information can be confusing, leaving you with questions.

Learn about your risk for COVID-19 and its complications and how to continue managing psoriasis and your overall health during the pandemic and as the world slowly gets back to normal.

how to manage psoriasis during covid19
Laura Porter / Verywell 

Personal Risk for COVID-19

Infections are considered common complications in people with psoriasis. This skin condition, which causes red itchy, scaly patches, can increase your risk for all types of infections.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It can infect the upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, or throat) or lower respiratory tract (lungs and windpipe). It spreads in the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly from person to person.

The risk of COVID-19 for people with psoriasis is unknown, and there is no conclusive evidence that they might be more susceptible to COVID-19 compared to people without the condition.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that people using immunosuppressive drug therapies might be at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Even if you are not using immunosuppressive therapies to treat psoriasis, coronavirus is still highly contagious, putting everyone at risk. 

Immunosuppressive drug therapies, including biologics and corticosteroids, are often used to treat moderate to severe cases of psoriasis.

If you have other conditions in addition to psoriasis, you’re at increased risk for a poor outcome should you develop COVID-19. This includes comorbidities, like diabetes and heart, lung, or kidney diseases, which are more common in people with severe psoriasis.

Protecting Yourself

Because having psoriasis might increase your risk for contracting COVID-19 or its severe complications, you will need to take extra precautions to avoid exposure. This includes following the standard CDC recommendations.

CDC Recommendations

The CDC recommends practicing physical distancing, wearing face coverings when you are in public settings where social distancing is difficult, and washing your hands regularly. It also recommends getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

While it can get old trying to follow some of these recommendations day after day, week after week, and month after month, it is important to stay vigilant. COVID-19—including its variants—is going to be here for a while, so you shouldn’t let your guard down.

In indoor settings, if you are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you should be wearing a face covering, according to the CDC. This is especially true in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, where wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and when in close contact with people not fully vaccinated is also recommended.

It is important to take your mask off as soon as you get home and gently wash your hands and face. Pat skin dry and moisturize to keep skin from drying up.

Psoriasis Self-Care

Caring for your health and skin with psoriasis is always important, but it is essential during a worldwide pandemic.

Follow Your Treatment Plan

Staying on top of your treatment plan is one of the most important ways to stay healthy and manage your psoriasis. You need to take all your medications as prescribed, even immunosuppressive drug therapies. There has not been enough research that supports stopping these medications during the pandemic.

The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) recommends staying on these medications unless you become infected with COVID-19. The foundation does recommend stopping biologic drug therapies if you test positive for COVID-19.

Stay in Touch with Your Doctor

If you have not been in touch with your doctor since the start of the pandemic, it is a good idea to check in. You can visit with your doctor through telehealth (a video or audio chat appointment). That way, you are not going into your doctor’s office and risking acquiring an infection.

To help you prepare for a telehealth or an in-person appointment, use Verywell Health's downloadable Doctor Discussion Guide below. It will help you learn relevant terminology, anticipate questions you may want to ask, and more.

Psoriasis Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

Keep Your Skin Healthy

While your skin symptoms aren’t going to increase your risk for COVID-19, you still will want to keep your skin healthy. It is important to moisturize and to locally treat skin plaques with topical treatments.

Frequent handwashing is important, but it is a good idea to use mild soap and not hand sanitizers to avoid irritation or disturbing the outer layer of your skin.

Take Advantage of Stress-Reduction Tools

Stress is a well-known trigger for psoriasis flare-ups (periods of high disease activity). For many people with psoriasis, the pandemic has increased their stress levels.

Stress-relieving approaches, such as mindfulness, meditation, exercise, relaxation breathing, and yoga, can all be helpful to keep you calm and balanced and keep psoriasis flare-ups at bay.

Get Enough Sleep

During times of stress, you might lose sleep, and the lack of sleep can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms. Make sure you are getting seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. Try to get to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning.

Treating Psoriasis During the Pandemic

COVID-19 has made managing serious health conditions a little more challenging. Even so, you need to continue to communicate with your doctor regularly, even if it is not the same as it was before the pandemic.

You can still make in-person appointments. Your doctor’s office is doing everything it can to keep you safe when you come in for a visit.

This includes limiting the number of people coming in and out of their offices, practicing masking and physical distancing, taking screening measures for COVID-19 like temperature checks, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, and providing hand sanitizer for staff and patient use.

You also have the option of a telemedicine visit, or telehealth visit. Telehealth uses a wide array of technologies for doctors to connect with their patients. This might include video conferencing platforms like Zoom or FaceTime and communications through the telephone and messaging. Telehealth often occurs in real time.

Research shows similar outcomes for people with psoriasis who received treatment via telehealth and those who got in-person care. Telehealth has become crucial during the pandemic to keep people connected with their doctors and get the care they need to manage psoriasis effectively.

Symptoms to Watch For

The most common COVID-19 symptoms are a dry cough, fatigue, and fever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Additional symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Aches and pains
  • Digestive symptoms, including diarrhea
  • Nasal congestion
  • Shortness of breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell

If you are exposed to the coronavirus, you might develop symptoms within two to 14 days. Symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe, and some people might be asymptomatic, meaning they don’t experience any symptoms of COVID-19.

If You Test Positive for COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor will provide you with information and treatments to help you to recover. Your doctor will also provide instructions on how to self-isolate to avoid spreading the virus. Most people can recover at home.

You should contact your dermatologist or other healthcare provider to see if you need to make changes to your psoriasis treatment plan. Do not stop taking any medication until your doctor gives you the OK.

If your doctor stops any treatment, find out when it is safe to restart that medication. You should also get in touch with your doctor if your psoriasis flares up while you are recovering from COVID-19.

If you experience severe symptoms of COVID-19, including problems breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion, problems with staying awake or walking, or blue lips or skin, call 911. Tell the 911 operator and first responders that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and are having severe symptoms.

Getting Back to Normal

The prospect of getting back to normal just seems to be moving further and further into the future as the pandemic continues. Even though normal isn’t yet within our reach, you still need to live your life as best as you can to protect your health.

You are probably wondering whether it will be safe for you to take the vaccine. Both the International Psoriasis Council and the NPF do recommend that people with psoriasis take the vaccine as soon as possible.

A statement posted by the International Psoriasis Council on COVID-19 vaccines and psoriasis states that “there is no evidence that vaccines affect psoriasis onset or severity.”

If you have concerns about adverse effects to your skin or health from the vaccine, talk to your doctor. Medical professionals are the best source of information about the vaccine, and they can offer you advice and insight based on your unique situation.

The NPF’s COVID-19 Task Force recommends people with psoriasis take the vaccine if they have not had prior contradictions to vaccines. (Contraindications are symptoms or conditions that make a particular treatment or procedure inadvisable.) The foundation further notes that you can take the vaccine even if you take biologic therapies to treat psoriasis.

Ask the doctor treating your psoriasis whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for you. Your doctor can provide accurate information about the vaccine and answer any questions you may have.

Getting the vaccine doesn’t mean you should stop practicing preventive measures, such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, and handwashing, however. While vaccines are an effective tool for preventing the virus that causes COVID-19, they don’t guarantee complete immunity.

A Word From Verywell

Living with psoriasis comes with unique challenges, which have become more evident during the pandemic. And as the pandemic continues, it is important to stay calm, keep an open mind, and rely on your doctor’s advice to best guide you. 

Don’t be afraid to speak up about fears and questions you may have. Never make any changes to your treatment plan without first talking to your doctor. Finally, make sure you reach out to your doctor if you experience a change or an increase in psoriasis symptoms or experience COVID-19–like symptoms. 

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Article Sources
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