Psoriasis causes frustration, embarrassment, discomfort and even pain. And when you don’t know what’s causing your psoriasis, those emotions can be even stronger. As someone who lives with a mild form of psoriasis, I can attest to the fact that it’s a very emotionally-challenging skin condition. It’s not fun explaining to people why I don’t like wearing shorts. And it’s not exactly glamorous to have to answer people’s questions about why I have red blotches on my legs. Plus, it’s itchy and sometimes even painful.
But I’m just one person among many out there with psoriasis and, if you’re reading this, the odds are you have it, too (or know someone with the condition). Trust me – we’re not alone.
I had my first outbreak in college while I was studying abroad in Beijing and, honestly, it freaked me out. I’d always had “perfect” skin until one day, seemingly out of nowhere, I found a red patch on my leg.
I immediately saw a dermatologist who almost reflexively diagnosed me right then and there. It must’ve taken 5 whole seconds, probably because psoriasis is an extremely common skin disorder. It affects more than 7 million people in just the United States. See? Told you we’re not alone.
Let me start off by saying that researchers currently believe that psoriasis doesn’t have just one sole cause. Rarely does a dermatologist see a psoriatic patient and say, “It’s the weather. All of your life’s problems have to do with this heat wave.”
That’s not gonna happen. And it’s a frustrating dilemma for sure. The current research points to a mixture of factors, all of which add up to inflame the skin with psoriatic lesions.
The Top 3 Psoriasis Causes
Dermatologists agree that a genetic predisposition to repeated inflammatory processes in the skin is largely to blame as one of the biggest psoriasis causes. Phew. That’s a mouthful that means if mom and pop have it, or someone in your family has it, you’re at a high risk of getting it, too. As a reminder, this is genetics; psoriasis is not contagious.
I’m in this boat. Nearly everyone on my mom’s side of the family has psoriasis in varying degrees. Not fun. The resultant predisposition triggers inflammation and causes skin cells to renew faster than normal, leading to the flaky buildup (dead skin cells) that makes psoriasis immediately recognizable.
- Outside Triggers
Exogenous factors (meaning those outside of your body) can push a psoriasis breakout. Irritants like a dry climate that’s low in humidity and eating certain foods can damage your skin. Having even a common infection like something respiratory-related can cause a psoriatic flare-up because your immune system is affected.
Interestingly, the way you cleanse your skin and the kinds of care products you use are incredibly important. Because our skin has a naturally acidic barrier, you want to use products that are low on the pH scale. Stuff that’s too acidic or too alkaline actually strips away your skin’s protective layer, making you more vulnerable to developing psoriasis. Everything you use should be right around pH 5.5.
- Internal Problems
Some researchers think this is the biggest cause of all. Endogenous factors (those inside of your body) can be the strongest culprits and the hardest to pinpoint.
Psoriasis is considered to be an autoimmune disorder. If you have psoriasis, it’s safe to say that your immune system is at least a little bit faulty. Stress is another factor that’s known to trigger outbreaks. When I had my first outbreak, I was in the un-glorious throes of academic rigor (and in a foreign country) AKA under a ton of S-T-R-E-S-S.
And this is tough because, even outside of college, stress is hard to avoid. Life is stressful. If you’re just plain overwhelmed, I’d recommend starting slow. Even just a few minutes of mindfulness a day can make a difference. Simple 5-minute meditations and breathing exercises help me a ton.
Regardless of the Psoriasis Causes – Can’t I Just Get Rid of It?
Oh, how I wish there was a magic wand somewhere that I could wave and then poof my psoriasis is gone forever. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There’s no known cure for psoriasis at the moment, but there are many different forms of treatment – some decidedly more effective than others depending on what your particular blend of causes may be. Phototherapy, topical creams and steroids, and orally administered medication that targets cells in your immune system are all options. Definitely speak with your dermatologist first, though.
I suggest familiarizing yourself with the National Psoriasis Foundation’s resources to learn more about psoriasis causes and available treatments. They offer a lot of insight into the research behind psoriasis, living with the condition, where to find support and more.