Your skin plays an important role in protecting your body. Among other duties, it retains fluid to prevent dehydration, allows you to feel sensations, keeps out infection, and creates vitamin D from sunlight.
Skin diseases have many symptoms and causes, and they affect the skin’s ability to function. Psoriasis is a long-lasting, incurable skin condition that affects the immune system and causes periodic flare-ups. Psoriasis has several triggers that lead to flare-ups, including stress.
At Skinworks Dermatology, with three New York City locations, Dr. Javier Zelaya and his expert medical team diagnose and treat a range of skin conditions, including psoriasis. Here, they look at the link between psoriasis and stress.
What is psoriasis?
Though not as common as other skin ailments, like acne, psoriasis affects more than 3% of the adult population in the United States, over 7.5 million people. Unlike many skin problems, psoriasis is a result of issues in your immune system, although what causes it isn’t clear.
With psoriasis, infection-fighting cells attack healthy cells in your immune system, which leads to an overproduction of skin cells. This overproduction causes dryness, itchiness, and other symptoms common to the disease.
There are many types of psoriasis, but the most common is plaque psoriasis, characterized by the raised, dry, itchy patches of skin covered with scales (plaques).
The link between stress and psoriasis
The relationship between stress and psoriasis is complicated and symbiotic, where one can often lead to the other. Stress is one of many triggers of psoriasis — up to 88% of people with the condition point to it as a symptom — but having a psoriasis flare-up can also cause stress.
Exactly how stress affects people with psoriasis isn’t entirely clear, but research suggests the neurogenic inflammation hypothesis. This hypothesis proposes that psoriasis causes the release of neuropeptides that leads to localized inflammation and, in turn, flare-ups.
Whatever the cause, experiencing a flare-up leads to stress, which worsens the condition and might make people more self-conscious about the areas of skin affected. This reaction creates more stress, which leads to more flare-ups.
How is psoriasis treated?
Various medications and treatments can help manage a psoriasis outbreak, including topical creams, pills, injections, and light therapy. But addressing the cyclical nature of the stress/flare-up loop is mainly a question of finding ways to reduce stress.
Exercise can lower stress by improving self-esteem, so adopting an exercise routine can help you feel better. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mediation, and biofeedback, can also help you reduce stress.
You may have to live with psoriasis, but you can manage and even prevent outbreaks. To learn more about finding relief from your psoriasis flare-ups, call the Skinworks Dermatology office in Maspeth, Chelsea, or Park Slope, or book your visit online.