Managing Psoriasis As You Get Older

Diverse Group of older adults
alvarez/Getty Images.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which skin cells regenerate more quickly than normal, causing itching, flaking, and lesions called plaques. Although it's a chronic condition, psoriasis doesn't tend to get worse over time. However, if you have psoriasis you can expect to experience changes in the way it affects your skin, scalp, and overall health as you get older. This means you'll likely need to adjust and adapt to how you manage the condition.

Skin and Hair

Over time, skin naturally loses elasticity, becomes thinner and dryer, and develops wrinkles and other signs of aging. Although genetics plays a role in how skin changes over time, exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays over time is the biggest factor.

Psoriasis flares in skin that has been damaged by the sun often are challenging to treat. If you have psoriasis, wearing sunscreen daily and taking other measures to protect your skin from sun damage throughout your life may help to save your skin later in life.

Smoking speeds the rate at which skin ages. If you have psoriasis and smoke, kicking the habit may help to prolong the health of your skin as well as lower your risk of lung cancer and other complications of tobacco use.

If you have psoriasis on your scalp and your hair is starting to turn grey, be careful before covering up the incoming silver. A molecule in hair dye, paraphenylenediamine, may exacerbate psoriasis flare-ups. Wait until after the flare-up is under control and symptoms have subsided to make an appointment at the salon.

The thinning of hair that naturally occurs with age also may be exacerbated by psoriasis, often as a result of frequent head-scratching as well as dryness. Using conditioner when you wash your hair and limiting the use of heating styling tools (hair dryers, curling irons, and such) may be helpful.

Overall Health

Having psoriasis can put you at an increased risk for serious health conditions that are common with age. Among the comorbidities associated with psoriasis are heart disease, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, psoriatic arthritis, and depression.

Heart Disease

There is growing evidence psoriasis linking psoriasis to an increased risk of heart disease. In addition, psoriasis may contribute to other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure

Psoriasis on its own might be considered a risk factor for heart disease to the same degree family history and smoking are. Managing your psoriasis should be part of an overall plan to prevent heart problems, along with eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise.

Metabolic Disorders

A 2018 review in the journal Clinical Dermatology revealed a strong link between psoriasis and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders that are more common with age. They include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Between 20% and 50% of people with psoriasis have a metabolic disorder. The risk of metabolic syndrome in people with psoriasis is twice that of those who do not have the condition and is more common in people who have severe psoriasis than in those whose disorder is mild. 

Osteoporosis

A study in 2019 in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology found a connection between psoriatic disease (psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis) and low bone mineral density. Low bone mineral density can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis with age.

Reducing the risk for osteoporosis whether you have psoriasis or not involves including adequate calcium and vitamin D in your diet and doing regular weight-bearing activities.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory condition that causes joint pain and stiffness in up to 30% of people with psoriasis, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. PsA is often diagnosed in people ages 30 to 50, although it can affect anyone of any age.

Little is known about how to prevent PsA as highlighted in a 2019 medical review in the journal Nature Reviews Rheumatology.The best way to prevent PsA, experts agree, is to manage your psoriasis diligently.

If you have concerns about the progression of psoriasis and your risk for PsA, talk to your doctor about your outlook and how to best manage psoriasis symptoms and flare-ups.

Depression

Depression is a common, but not normal, part of aging, with or without psoriasis. Psoriasis is strongly connected to depression and research shows all people with psoriasis are at risk for major depression.

Depression is treatable and there many effective treatments available. Share with your doctor if you experience any signs of depression.

Common signs of depression include persistent sadness, feeling hopeless or worthless, loss of interest in favorite activities, concentration and sleep troubles, irritability, and thoughts of death and/or suicide.

Menopause

The severity of psoriasis can fluctuate with hormonal changes: The onset of psoriasis sometimes occurs during puberty or, in response to decreasing levels of estrogen, during menopause.It's believed this may occur as a result of a strong higher inflammatory response, which is the driving force in psoriasis.

Menopause can also cause dry skin, reduce collagen production (a cause of thinner skin), and decrease skin elasticity.

Caring for Aging Skin

As you get older, there are many simple measures you can take to preserve the appearance of your skin and help prevent flares of arthritis.

Steer clear of skincare products that contain alcohol, fragrances, and sulfates, ingredients that are known to cause irritation and dryness.

Try to avoid trauma to our skin: An injury can lead to a psoriasis breakout—also known as the Koebner phenomenon.

Cleanse your skin with gentle, hydrating non-soap products that won’t disrupt the skin barrier. Shower in lukewarm water for no longer than 10 minutes. Pat skin dry and moisturize.

If you have scales on your scalp or other places of your body, use skincare products containing salicylic acid., which can gently exfoliate skin and remove scales from psoriasis plaques.

A Word From Verywell

Serious exacerbations of psoriasis or other complications of the condition are not inevitable as you get older as long as you work closely with your doctor to manage the condition. Do be aware of the role stress can play in flares, as there are many life events that occur later in life that can take an emotional toll—from the birth of a grandchild to the death of a loved one. To the degree it's possible, anticipate the possibility of such events, have strategies in place for dealing with them, and make stress-reducing practices like yoga or meditation a part of your regular daily routine.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Aging. Skin care and Aging. Updated October 1, 2017.

  2. Farage MA, Miller KW, Elsner P, Maibach HI. Characteristics of the aging skin. Adv Wound Care (New Rochelle). 2013;2(1):5-10. doi:10.1089/wound.2011.0356

  3. Oliveira Mde F, Rocha Bde O, Duarte GV. Psoriasis: Classical and emerging comorbidities. An Bras Dermatol. 2015;90(1):9-20. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20153038

  4. Jindal S, Jindal N. Psoriasis and cardiovascular diseases: A literature review to determine the causal relationship. Cureus. Feb 15 2018;10(2):e2195. doi:10.7759/cureus.2195

  5. Gisondi P, Fostini AC, Fossà I, et al. Psoriasis and the metabolic syndrome. Clin Dermatol. 2018 Jan-Feb;36(1):21-28. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2017.09.005 

  6. Martinez-Lopez A, Blasco-Morente G, Giron-Prieto MS, et. al. Linking of psoriasis with osteopenia and osteoporosis: A cross-sectional study. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2019 Mar-Apr;85(2):153-159. doi:10.4103/ijdvl.IJDVL_831_17 

  7. National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis statistics

  8. Scher JU, Ogdie A, Merola JF, et al. Preventing psoriatic arthritis: Focusing on patients with psoriasis at increased risk of transition. Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2019 Mar;15(3):153-166. doi:10.1038/s41584-019-0175-0

  9. National Institute on Aging. Depression and older adults. Updated May 1, 2017.

  10. Cohen BE, Martires KJ, Ho RS. Psoriasis and the risk of depression in the US population: National health and nutrition examination survey 2009-2012. JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(1):73-79. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.3605

  11. Ceovic R, Mance M, Bukvic Mokos Z, et al. Psoriasis: female skin changes in various hormonal stages throughout life—puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:571912. doi:10.1155/2013/571912 

  12. Reus TL, Brohem CA, Schuck DC, et al. Revisiting the effects of menopause on the skin: Functional changes, clinical studies, in vitro models and therapeutic alternatives. Mech Ageing Dev. 2020 Jan;185:111193. doi: 10.1016/j.mad.2019.111193

  13. Ji YZ, Liu SR. Koebner phenomenon leading to the formation of new psoriatic lesions: Evidences and mechanismsBiosci Rep. 2019;39(12):BSR20193266. doi:10.1042/BSR20193266

  14. De Benedetto A, Kubo A, Beck LA. Skin barrier disruption: a requirement for allergen sensitization? J Invest Dermatol. 2012;132(3 Pt 2):949-963. doi:10.1038/jid.2011.435