Tips on how you can cope with psoriasis

Summer can be a time of heightened anxiety for people living with psoriasis. Liz Connor takes a look.
Tips on how you can cope with psoriasis

FLARE-UP: Psoriasis affects around 2% of people and can strike at any age

PSORIASIS affects around two in every 100 people in Ireland and you can get it at any age in life, male or female.

The British Skin Foundation says that although psoriasis is a long-term condition, it can often come and go throughout your lifetime, which means people affected will usually experience flare-ups followed by periods where symptoms calm down.

Exactly why some people develop it and others don’t isn’t entirely clear.

The condition is characterised by dry, raised, scaly patches of skin, which may be itchy and sometimes sore and painful.

These patches (called ‘plaques’) tend to occur because of an increased production of skin cells. Usually, skin cells are replaced every three to four weeks, but with psoriasis this process can happen between three to seven days.

It’s good to remember that psoriasis is not infectious, so you can’t pass it on to someone else by being in close contact, or sharing a swimming pool or beach towel for instance.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to deal with, and living with a chronic skin condition can take a toll psychologically and socially, as well as physically.

For some people with psoriasis, summer can be a tricky time — as the hot weather means having more skin on display, or being uncomfortable in the heat if you’re still covering up.

Having psoriasis is nothing to be ashamed of — lots more celebrities have been opening up about their experiences of the condition in recent years, so awareness is thankfully improving — but if you are finding it a challenge to cope with, you’re not alone. Support is out there, though, and your GP is a good first port of call.

Here, we looked at some common skincare questions around dealing with psoriasis in the summer...

How can I relieve psoriasis symptoms?

Currently, there’s no cure for psoriasis, but there are lots of treatments that may help to relieve your symptoms and manage flare-ups.

Treatments tend to fall into three categories: Topical creams and ointments that are applied to your skin, phototherapy, and oral and injected medications that work throughout the entire body.

It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor ahead of your summer holiday, as some treatments may work better for you than others — and you may need to use a combination.

Your doctor will explain when and how to treat your symptoms, and how to use any prescribed treatments properly and safely.

If symptoms are particularly severe and ongoing, a referral to a dermatologist, who can give more specialist advice, is a good idea.

Can sunlight help my psoriasis?

Some people find that sunlight makes their psoriasis better, as the sun’s UVB light can slow the production of new skin cells.

In fact, light therapy (phototherapy) — where a registered dermatologist administers artificial light to the affected areas — is a common treatment for psoriasis.

It’s important to remember about protecting your skin in the sun though. Experts warn that some psoriasis medicines can make you more sensitive to the sun — so it’s a good idea to speak to your GP or dermatologist before heading off on a particularly hot holiday.

Everybody, whether or not they have a skin condition, needs to be aware of skin cancer risks from sun damage too, and take sensible steps to stay protected.

As well as avoiding too long outdoors when the sun’s at its hottest and covering up with hats and sunglasses, etc, don’t forget to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen. If you have very sensitive skin, seek advice about the best sun creams to avoid aggravating any sore patches.

One day in the sun isn’t likely to clear up psoriasis — as the skin adapts to effects of the sun gradually — so experts suggest you could try to get outside for 10 minutes per day, over the course of several days, to test if your skin reacts positively to sunlight.

Will chlorine make it worse?

It’s tempting to take a dip for relief when your skin is feeling tight and itchy, but chlorine is a chemical that can make dry patches worse and possibly cause further skin irritation for some people. That said, being submerged in warm water can often soften hard areas of skin, so the best way to avoid irritation from chlorine is to take a shower immediately after getting out of the pool.

It also goes without saying that you should avoid the pool if you have any particularly bad patches that are bleeding or oozing.

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