Psoriasis: Triggers & Treatment Options

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Psoriasis is a systemic autoimmune inflammatory disorder that affects about 3 percent of the U.S. population. It typically presents as dry, red, scaly patches on the skin and can start or worsen because of a trigger.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis triggers are not universal. What may cause one person’s psoriasis to become active, may not affect another. Established psoriasis triggers may include the following:

Stress: Stress can cause psoriasis to flare for the first time or aggravate existing psoriasis and may have to do with stress affecting the immune system. Relaxation and stress relief may help prevent stress from impacting psoriasis.

Smoking: Smoking can double a person’s risk of getting psoriasis. It may be due to the thousands of ingredients in cigarette smoke. Nicotine may also alter the immune system and contribute to skin cell growth and inflammation.

Skin Injury: Psoriasis can appear in areas of the skin that have been injured or traumatized, including sunburns and scratches.

Cold Weather: Cold, dry air can worsen psoriasis due to the lack of humidity. Dry air prevents the skin from retaining moisture, thus causing tiny cracks to develop on the skin.

Medications: Certain medications are associated with triggering psoriasis. Patients are advised to ask their pharmacist for more information.

Alcohol: Alcohol appears to affect psoriasis in men more strongly than in women, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. One study found that heavy drinking actually lowered the effectiveness of psoriasis treatments in men. Other studies have shown that men with psoriasis drink more than men without, that there is a higher incidence of psoriasis in alcoholics, and that abstinence can improve the severity of the disease.

Infection: Anything that can affect the immune system can affect psoriasis. In particular, strep throat is associated with guttate psoriasis. Flare-ups may also occur following an ear ache, bronchitis, tonsillitis or a respiratory infection.

Treatment

According to the National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, doctors generally treat psoriasis based on the type and severity of the disease, size and location of the areas involved, and the patient’s response to initial treatment. Treatments can include: 

  • medicines applied to the skin (topical treatment)
  • light treatment (phototherapy)
  • medicines by mouth or injection (systemic therapy)

Treatments applied directly to the skin may improve its condition. Doctors find that some patients respond well to ointment or cream forms of corticosteroids, vitamin D, retinoids, coal tar, or anthralin.

However, over time affected skin can become resistant to treatment, especially when topical corticosteroids are used. Also, a treatment that works very well for one person may have no effect on another. Thus, doctors often use a trial-and-error approach to find a treatment that works, and may switch treatments periodically if a treatment does not work or if adverse reactions occur.

A second treatment option includes light therapy, which is administered by a doctor. Natural ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun and controlled delivery of artificial UV light are used in treating psoriasis.

For more severe forms of psoriasis, doctors sometimes prescribe medicines that are taken internally by pill or injection, referred to as systemic treatment. A combination of topical, light and systemic treatments often can result in increased effectiveness.

OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy is a privately-held healthcare entity that is ACHC- and URAC- accredited and uniquely qualified to treat psoriasis. OptiMed is devoted to helping these individuals optimize treatment outcomes by providing personalized medication management and research-based clinical information. We work closely with each patient, prescriber and payer to create a personalized plan that will lead to treatment success and improved quality of life.

Our pharmacists are available to answer questions by calling 877-385-0535. For more information about our services, visit www.optimedspecialtyrx.com.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, National Psoriasis Foundation, American Academy of Dermatology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

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