Psoriasis: Trace Your Triggers

Part of successfully treating psoriasis is finding out what triggers your symptoms. Aimee Bosland, health educator for the National Psoriasis Foundation, suggests keeping a journal. Whenever you have a flare-up—or your psoriasis improves—write a detailed description of what was happening at the time. Include these factors:

The weather and/or season. Do your symptoms improve in the warm, sunny months, do they stay the same or do they worsen? Some people find their symptoms are the worst in the winter. Indoor heat, air-conditioning and humidity can all trigger your psoriasis.

Your menstrual cycle. Although it's not understood exactly why, hormonal fluctuations in the menstrual cycle can trigger flares in some women. Many women report that their psoriasis improves during pregnancy.

Any new medications you're taking. Certain drugs, including those for bipolar disorder, high blood pressure and even vitamins or supplements, can aggravate psoriasis.

Stress. Does your psoriasis worsen as the holidays near? When you're facing a tough deadline? Be mindful of stressful events that have happened prior to a recent flare-up.

Lifestyle habits. Did your last flare-up occur after a night of too much drinking? Do your symptoms worsen whenever you eat a certain food or swim in a chlorinated pool? It may seem unrelated, but these are common triggers.

Skin injuries. Sunburns, cuts and scrapes can stimulate the immune system and cause a flare.

Illnesses. Did you have a cold or other sickness that coincided with a flare-up? Keep notes about any infection or illness that occurred, because it might be related. Keep your journal for several months, and share it with your doctor to see if you can identify your triggers. Then, use the information to customize your psoriasis-management plan.

Reviewed by: Mary Ellen Luchetti, M.D., AAD

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