Psoriasis: Why it Gets Worse in Winter and Fall

Fall: It brings beautifully colored leaves, cooler, crisper air, festive holidays and all too often, itchy skin. Why? Experts say the season’s drier air and lower levels of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can worsen inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis (since ultraviolet light hinder the rapid growth of skin cells–a characteristic of the condition). The dry heat blared in most buildings during colder months can also sap the body of its natural stores of moisture, leading to dry, itching, cracked skin.

Wondering what you can do? Here, William A. Wooden, MD, FACS a plastic surgeon at Indiana University Health offers some helpful insights on psoriasis. 

“Normally our skin grows all the time and sheds effectively but with people who have psoriasis it doesn’t shed fast enough and therefore gets thicker and scalier,” says Dr. Wooden. This is also once again a systemic condition that tends to run in families…meaning it’s not contagious and if your mom, dad, or siblings have had it, your risk could be higher.

Symptoms:  Like eczema, this can be a lifelong condition where the immune system basically sends off faulty information to the skin’s cells that force them to grow too quickly, says Dr. Wooden. The result can be the formation of plaque-like growths that may appear scaly and are often quite itchy. Common places for plaque formations include knees, elbows, lower back, and scalp.

Treatment: It is very important to keep tabs on when a patient’s psoriasis flares up. Oftentimes things like stress, illness, or new medications may trigger symptoms. Sadly, there is no cure, but Dr. Wooden says there are a variety of treatments that may offer patients relief including laser options, steroids and anti-inflammatories. “Patients with psoriasis should work with a doctor to find the right treatment plan for them,” says Dr. Wooden, who reiterates that there isn’t one perfect solution so some trial and error may be involved.

Prevention: “Patients also need to be attuned to the balance of the body,” says Dr. Wooden, who says that psoriatic flare-ups are often an indication that something else is off internally.

— By Sarah Burns