Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects over 4.5 million adults, as well as many children. It can start at any age and causes sufferers to develop flaky, red, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.
The severity of psoriasis varies greatly. For some sufferers, it causes very minor irritation; for others it can have a major impact on the quality of their life. Whilst psoriasis can be found anywhere on the body, common areas are on the scalp, legs, knees, elbows, ears, navel and lower back.
As winter draws near, with colder and drier air, those suffering from psoriasis can find their condition worsen. A combination of decreased sunlight exposure, a lack of humidity in the air outside and the dry heat in most buildings during the colder months can drain the skin of its moisture. Losing moisture from your skin means it is less able to repair and regulate itself, which can lead to flares in skin conditions during the colder months.
Winter days are not only shorter, but many spend less time outside, and are usually wearing more clothes than normal to brave the colder weather. All of these factors lead to much less exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun, which during the spring and summer months eases the condition.
Ultraviolet light hinders the rapid growth of skin cells that is characteristic of psoriasis, which is why many find that the condition flares in the autumn and winter months, with plaques worsening.
The medical use of light rays to treat psoriasis, also known as phototherapy, is a common and effective treatment during the winter months. A dermatologist will be able to provide you with a treatment plan, with exposure based on the severity of the condition and other personal factors. It is key to note that sun beds are not an effective treatment for psoriasis, as they produce a different type of light.
By following a personalised treatment plan set by a dermatologist, with regular checkups, phototherapy can improve and manage the onset of severe psoriasis during the colder months.
How can you help your winter psoriasis?
- Moisturise regularly, even if your psoriasis is mild. This relieves discomfort and helps to prevent flares.
- Minimise alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking.
- Do not use suntan booths or sun beds if your psoriasis improves with being in the sun.
- Stress is a proven trigger for psoriasis. Any changes in lifestyle that enable you to reduce your stress are beneficial.