Although the exact cause of psoriasis is not known, experts believe that the immune system is triggered by certain factors to cause psoriasis. When you encounter your psoriasis triggers, you may experience symptoms - called a flare-up - or your existing symptoms may get worse. Sometimes, triggers can even lead to the development of psoriasis and the first occurrence.
Psoriasis triggers may include:
- Skin injury: Physical trauma to the skin, including a razor nick, insect bite, bruise, blister, or even sunburn. New lesions often appear at the site of injury.
- Respiratory infection: Respiratory infections caused by bacteria or viruses can trigger psoriasis. About 2 out of every 3 occurrences of guttate psoriasis are triggered by strep throat, an infection caused by streptococcus bacteria.
- Medications: This includes certain heart medications (e.g., beta-blockers such as metoprolol or ACE inhibitors such as ramipril), indomethacin, lithium, anti-malaria medications (e.g., chloroquine), and oral corticosteroids (if overused or stopped abruptly). If you are taking any of these, do not stop or change the way you are taking your medications until you talk to your health care provider.
- Stress: Emotional stress can trigger or worsen psoriasis. To make matters worse, having psoriasis itself can be stressful.
- Alcohol: Excessive alcohol use may trigger psoriasis and may worsen psoriasis.
- Smoking: Pustular psoriasis and plaque psoriasis may be more common in people who smoke.
- Cold weather: Cold weather can trigger a flare-up, and the dry winter air tends to dry and irritate the skin. In contrast, hot and sunny weather appears to help with psoriasis lesions.
- Hormones: The relationship between hormone changes and psoriasis is not clear. Research shows that many people develop psoriasis after puberty when hormone levels decrease. When hormone levels rise during pregnancy, psoriasis symptoms often improve. After delivery, many women experience worsening of psoriasis again.
Knowing your psoriasis triggers is an important part of managing your psoriasis. Once you know your triggers, find ways to avoid the triggers or reduce your exposure to them.