- Flare Frequency
- Number of flares in the past year
- Duration of latest flare
- Most frustrating flare symptoms
- Identifying flare triggers
- 1. Prevention is key.
- 2. Treat at the first sign of a flare.
- 3. Try a moisturizer with a keratolytic ingredient.
- 4. Or try one with vitamin A or D.
- 5. Apply a “wet wrap.”
- Is Inflammation to Blame?
- What Is Psoriasis?
- Can You Die From Psoriasis?
- Your doctor, and each other
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that currently has no cure and can be a difficult and challenging condition to live with on a daily basis. Most people cycle through periods of flare-ups and periods of remission. Psoriasis flare-ups are periods of time when symptoms become worse. Remissions are periods of time when the symptoms get better or even go away completely for a period of time.
In our Psoriasis In America 2017 survey we asked respondents to share their experiences with frequency and duration of psoriasis flares. A look at the responses of survey respondents regarding psoriasis flares.
Number of flares in the past year
When asked the question “within the past year, how frequently have you experienced a psoriasis flare,” 54% of respondents shared that they experience 8 or more flares a year!
Duration of latest flare
Respondents to the survey were also asked: “how long did your latest flare last?” A look at the responses from participants of our survey.
- 38% of survey respondents stated that their latest flare lasted more than 6 months.
- 14% of respondents stated that their latest flare lasted somewhere between 3 to 6 months.
- 11% of respondents stated that their latest flare lasted somewhere between 1 to 2 months.
- 12% of respondents stated that their latest flare lasted somewhere between 2 weeks to 1 month.
- 10% of respondents stated that their latest flare lasted somewhere between 1 to 2 weeks.
- 3% of respondents stated that their latest flare lasted less than 1 week.
Most frustrating flare symptoms
When you have a flare, what symptom is the most frustrating for you? The top five most frustrating symptoms experienced during a flare were as follows:
- Red patches of skin with silvery scales (plaques)
- Swollen and/or stiff joints
- Scale/crust/lesions on the scalp
Identifying flare triggers
People who are diagnosed with psoriasis can learn to identify and avoid their own psoriasis triggers, which are things in the environment that can cause psoriasis symptoms to flare up. Identifying triggers can be a tactic to help manage frequency of flares.
When you’re in the middle of a psoriasis flare-up, you just want something that will relieve the itchiness that comes with those thick, red, scaly patches of skin—and you want it fast.
Maybe your psoriasis decided to flare after a period of stress or illness. But sometimes a flare arrives for no discernible reason at all. No matter what brought it on, a flare-up doesn’t have to be a catastrophe. With a little preparation, you can manage it (and mitigate the discomfort that comes with it) relatively easily.
Here, dermatologists share some of the best strategies for dealing with your next psoriasis flare.
1. Prevention is key.
Your number one defense against flare-ups is preventing them from happening in the first place—even when your skin feels totally fine.
That means establishing (and sticking to) a good skin-care regimen, ideally one that features a gentle cleanser, a heavy moisturizer, and sunscreen, Linda Stein, M.D., a dermatologist with the Henry Ford Health System, tells SELF. Your dermatologist will likely have you on a maintenance therapy routine involving prescription topical medication, light therapy, or oral or injectable medication—even when your skin appears flare-free.
Similarly, Emily Newsom, M.D., a dermatologist at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, recommends that people with psoriasis on their scalp use a dandruff shampoo that contains coal tar on a regular basis, as this active ingredient has been found to prevent against flares.
Beyond maintaining your skin’s health, practicing general self-care can reduce your risk of flares, too, Dr. Newsom says: “Make sure you’re sleeping enough manage stress as best as you can.” Again, stress can be a major trigger for flare-ups.
2. Treat at the first sign of a flare.
Don’t wait until your symptoms are really affecting you to start treating a flare-up: As soon as you notice a change in your skin that could signal an oncoming flare (like redness or itchiness), it’s time to act, Dr. Stein says. Apply a topical steroid (or whatever medication your derm has prescribed) as directed and try to take it easy.
Also, it’s important not to stop treatment until you’re completely free of symptoms, Dr. Stein says, even if the flare appears to be going away. “In my opinion, it comes back faster if it’s not completely clear to begin with,” she explains.
3. Try a moisturizer with a keratolytic ingredient.
For particularly thick plaques, Dr. Newsom suggests applying a lotion that contains a keratolytic, or a softening and peeling agent, like salicylic acid, lactic acid, or urea. That will help dissolve some of the scales. For instance, check out CeraVe Psoriasis Moisturizing Cream, $19, or Gold Bond Ultimate Psoriasis Relief Cream, $8.
However, note these ingredients, particularly salicylic acid, can irritate the skin, exacerbate dryness, and in extreme cases be toxic. So be sure to use keratolytic moisturizers as directed and only on the thickest plaques rather than across large swaths of skin.
4. Or try one with vitamin A or D.
Meanwhile, products containing vitamins A or D—including their synthetic versions and derivatives—can also reduce the symptoms of a flare-up thanks to their anti-inflammatory effects, Dr. Stein says.
For example, your derm may recommend trying a prescription retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, like tazarotene. Medications like this increase cell turnover while reducing the buildup of psoriasis scales, making retinoids a great option for those who deal with thick plaques during flares.
Synthetic forms of vitamin D (vitamin D analogs) can also be useful because they help regulate the cell turnover process and, therefore, help reduce scales.
5. Apply a “wet wrap.”
In addition to actually treating the flare, you’ll likely want to mitigate the discomfort that comes with it. This is when a “wet wrap,” as Dr. Stein calls it, comes in handy.
Is Inflammation to Blame?
Earlier research by Gelfand and others found that people with severe psoriasis are at increased risk for a wide range of chronic conditions, including heart disease.
Psoriasis is now widely believed to be an autoimmune disease involving inflammation and the accelerated growth of skin cells and blood vessels, which produce the swollen, red lesions characteristic of the condition.
“One theory is that this chronic inflammation impacts other organs and systems within the body,” Elizabeth Horn, PhD, of the International Psoriasis Council tells WebMD.
Inflammation within the body is increasingly recognized as a major contributor to a host of life-threatening conditions.
“We know that chronic inflammation is bad for a variety of organs and that it is probably involved in a number of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” Gelfand says.
Horn says the latest research should serve as a wake-up call to patients and their doctors that severe psoriasis is a serious disease.
“We are learning that there is something happening in people with severe psoriasis that may not be happening with milder forms of the disease,” she says.
Horn and Gelfand agree that patients with severe psoriasis need to be especially vigilant about taking care of their overall health.
“It is very important for these patients to see their internist regularly, to have age-appropriate screenings, and to have their cardiovascular risks assessed and treated, if necessary,” Gelfand says.
What Is Psoriasis?
An estimated 30% of people with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis, a disease which causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Having psoriasis may also make people more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes, according to the NPF.
RELATED: 12 Best and Worst Foods for Psoriasis
There are many ways that people living with psoriasis can manage the condition. This includes avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy foods. Although there is no “psoriasis diet,” per se, eating healthy meals may help you feel better. You should also keep tabs on whether your joints feel stiff or sore or whether your nails are pitting or turning yellow—two possible signs of psoriatic arthritis. Recognizing these symptoms–and getting treatment–can help prevent further damage to the joints.
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Celebrities with psoriasis
Anyone can develop psoriasis—even the most beautiful people on the planet. And as people who are paid to look flawless, many celebrities with psoriasis say that the skin condition delivers a serious blow to their self-esteem and fear that it can interfere with their careers.
In 2011, Kim Kardashian revealed her psoriasis diagnosis on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Although her mother, Kris Jenner, was diagnosed with psoriasis at the age of 30, Kim was surprised to learn that she had the skin condition too. “My career is doing ad campaigns and swimsuit photo shoots,” she said in the episode. “People don’t understand the pressure on me to look perfect. Imagine what the tabloids would do to me if they saw all these spots.”
Model and actress Cara Delevingne also has psoriasis, which she struggled to manage while runway modeling. She told London’s The Times in an interview that people would paint her body with foundation to cover up the patches. “It was every single show,” she said. “People would put on gloves and not want to touch me.”
Other models also struggle with psoriasis, like CariDee English, who won America’s Next Top Model in 2006. Partly in response to the hurtful tabloid headlines that called out the lesions on her legs, she posted before-and-after photos of one of her flare-ups, saying, “I knew I didn’t want anyone capturing my psoriasis in a way that wasn’t empowering.”
Other celebs who have psoriasis include golfer Phil Michelson, country singer LeAnn Rimes, and pop star Cyndi Lauper.
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Can You Die From Psoriasis?
I learned from that day on that there were treatments and medications that don’t work for me. I am very conscientious about the medications, injections, and creams I use today. Just from my personal experience, I’ve had creams that burn the heck out of my skin. We have to be very mindful of what it is we put on our skin and in our bodies.
People are always telling me different things to try. I know they are only trying to help, but I know I have to be careful. Taking the wrong pill, injection or cream can prove to be detrimental to me as a person with psoriasis.
Your doctor, and each other
Even with my psoriatic arthritis, I don’t just rub anything on my aching joints. I’m careful to see what’s in it and can it be bad for my immune system.
My take away on this story is to be very careful what you put on your skin and research what medications that you take. We don’t want to make a fatal mistake. Medications are nothing to take lightly, don’t abuse and misuse the drugs that the doctor has prescribed for you. Take them as your doctor has directed and follow the directions carefully.
My psoriatic arthritis pain is very bad at times and it seems like the pain medication isn’t working as fast as I would like it to, however, I just wait for the process. I don’t want to overdose or over medicate myself.
The Queen’s story is a learning tool for all of us, whether her situation was accidental or not. We know that it was something in the medication that she died from. I ask again, can we die from our disease? If we neglect or misuse our medications, the possibility certainly would be great. Look at labels and be mindful of how you take your drugs so that our story will not be like the Queens.
Over the years I have been an active advocate for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, speaking up and out about this disease.