Psoriasis is a long lasting skin condition characterized by skin dryness and inflammation. The person suffering from this skin ailment would have thick psoriasis scales on various parts of the body including scalp. According to Wikipedia, more than 2% of the world's population is suffering from this complex skin disorder. Psoriasis is considered as an autoimmune disorder; the faulty immune system stimulates the skin cells to grow at an abnormally high rate sometimes as much as 9 to 10 times faster than in usual circumstances. It results in the accumulation of skin cells in the form of psoriasis patches on different parts of the body.
The various possible reasons for triggering such an autoimmune disorder are:
- Increased level of toxins (wastes) in the body. Leaky gut syndrome, chronic indigestion, constipation, food sensitivities- all these factors can play a role in accumulating toxins in your body.
- Higher consumption of alcohol and tobacco (smoking)
- Any skin infection or injury
- Genetic problem
- Higher level of stress and anxiety
- Long term intake of steroids and antibiotics
- Nutritional deficiency. In general, people suffering from psoriasis are advised to consume Vitamin D3, B12 and Omega 3 fatty acid supplements to ease the symptoms.
Why winters worsen your Psoriasis
Psoriasis is not a life threatening disorder; not contagious in nature either. But, extreme skin dryness and irritation makes it a difficult to manage skin condition. Winters can make it worse.
The possible reasons for psoriasis worsening in the winter are:
- Low temperature and cold winds can make your skin further dry and itchy.
- Possible attack of cold and flu. In general, psoriasis flare up when the body gets attacked by cold and flu viruses. Chances of getting cold and flu is high in the winter.
- No exposure to sunlight. Natural Sunlight has a soothing effect on psoriasis. During winter, your skin would get very little exposure to sunlight due to dark (without sunlight) days. Even if Sun shows up, heavy clothing would not get the adequate exposure to the sunlight.
- Extensive use of room heaters. You would find room heaters everywhere during the winter- your house as well as the workplace. These room heaters give warmth to your body, but at the same time, the hot air strips off the natural moisture from your skin to leave it dry.
- The winter blues- It is a medical term referring to the state of depression due to weather change. Dark days during the winters, without sunlight can make you feel low and depressed. The drying effect of winters is also there. The collective impact of these two phenomena would increase your stress level and we all know that stress is one of the most obvious culprits for psoriasis.
Psoriasis management in the Winter
Here are a few tips for protecting the skin from the winter pangs:
Moisten the Skin- The first and foremost rule to take care of the skin in winters is to moisten it well. Use a moisturizing soap and shampoo for bathing. Immediately after bathing, use a suitable body lotion so that your body doesn't lose the moisture and water gets locked in the skin. It is always better to opt for herbal/natural skin care products over steroids based pharma products. Steroids based products would work in a harsh manner to remove the psoriasis scales from your body without caring much about your skin. On the other hand, natural products like aloe vera, coconut oil, tea tree oil, neem oil, honey, glycerine would work effectively on the psoriasis scales without taking away the natural moisture of your skin.
Drink enough water– Drink lots of water at least 2-3 liters per day to keep your body water level in check and to ensure that the cold weather does not dry you out from within. Also, when indoors, try and use a humidifier to keep the moisture level at bay at home. It would neutralize the drying effect of room blowers.
Prefer warm water bath instead of hot– Most of us have a tendency of taking a steaming hot bath during winter as the hot water gives us comfort. However, what we fail to realize is that exposing our skin to hot water for a long time can cause skin dryness. Hence, use warm water for bathing and don't forget to apply moisturizing body lotion immediately after bathing as explained earlier.
Have a Bath Ritual- You can also safeguard the skin by taking a bath after application of skin oil as it would seal the skin and ensure that the hot water shower does not make it dry. Make it a ritual to scrub the skin occasionally so that the dead and dry skin flakes accumulated on the top layer falls off. Be cautious not to scrub too harshly the psoriasis affected areas to avoid any skin irritation.
Learn to Exercise- Regular exercise can be a game changer. It keeps your body warm, improves the overall body metabolism and not to forget, physical workout is one of the best stress buster. You don't need to run vigorously or lift heavy weights. Just a little jogging or brisk walk or bicycling will do. You can opt for other options like dancing, yoga or going to a gym. Listen to your body, know your limits and don't overdo.
Be cautious to stay away from cold and flu- Your immune system gets hyper active to fight the cold and flu causing viruses. Such a hyperactive immune system would pile up the thickness of psoriasis scales making it worse. Hence, it is intelligent to stay away from cold and flu. Wear proper warm clothes, avoid too much exposure to cold winds and take all other precautionary steps to ensure that your health condition does not worsen. In case you got flu, discuss with your doctor before taking anti flu shots. Too many anti flu shots are known to aggravate the psoriasis condition.
Wear warm clothes- It is not enough to moisten your skin well but you have to wear warm clothes also to ensure that your skin is not exposed to the harsh winter winds that can immediately dries up your skin and aggravates your condition. Hence, cover up and wear warm clothes. However, do not wear coarse clothes as they can irritate the top layer of the skin due to frequent rubbing and make the condition worse. Opt for soft cotton clothes and use layers of thin clothes instead of wearing thick heavy clothes. Heavy clothes can make your body sweat sometimes. Getting no way to evaporate, this locked in sweat can make you rub your skin harshly and causing further troubles.
Continue your treatment- Show more sincerity towards your treatment to counter the harmful effects of the winter. Consult your doctor so that suitable changes can be made in your diagnosis to prevent any possible psoriasis flare up. Due to non availability of UV rays of sunlight, a lot of dermatologists recommend light therapy so that your skin can get enough exposure to UV rays. But, UV rays can have certain side effects also. Expert doctor consultation is advisable before going for any such treatment.
Certain things are bound to happen and weather change is one of them. But, you can take steps to minimize the impact of winter on your psoriasis affected skin. Psoriasis management in the winter season is not a rocket science. Some positive changes in your lifestyle would help you a lot in keeping the things in control. Prevention is better than cure. Hence, don't let the things become worse to control them, be proactive and make above explained changes in your lifestyle to make your skin smile in the winter.