Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes patches of thickened, scaly skin that can crack, bleed, and itch. These symptoms are a result of the immune system attacking itself. Psoriasis often first appears in people ages 15-25.
If you’re in your 20s and have psoriasis, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that eight million people in the United States and 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis.
Fortunately, there are many medication options for treating psoriasis. Lifestyle changes can also help manage symptoms. While psoriasis is treatable, its effects go beyond the skin — it can cause mental, emotional, and social difficulties. Here are three things to know about psoriasis.
3 Things To Know About Psoriasis in Your 20s
Lifestyle Habits May Help Manage Psoriasis Symptoms
You can’t control whether or not you develop psoriasis, but there are steps you can take in daily life to help minimize things that could trigger psoriasis flare. While there is no one cause for psoriasis, an onset of a psoriasis flare can be triggered by cold weather, skin injury, stress, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and changes in medications.
Avoiding these potential triggers can decrease your risk for psoriasis flare-ups in the future. Using sunscreen, getting adequate sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and practicing stress management techniques are all lifestyle habits that may help manage your psoriasis and can positively impact your overall health.
Further, following a psoriatic arthritis diet, which is primarily an anti-inflammatory diet, may reduce symptoms of psoriasis and prevent flares. This means eating meals high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and olive oil—think Mediterranean diet. It also means minimizing saturated fats and refined sugars and carbs. Other diets, like gluten-free and paleo, have also been shown to be beneficial in individuals with psoriasis in reducing inflammation that leads to flares.
When trying to understand how lifestyle habits impact your psoriasis, it can be helpful to keep track of your symptoms and what you’ve eaten, the weather, and what’s going on in your life. Perhaps you tend to flare up after eating greasy foods, or after a night out, or during a stressful period at work. By keeping track of how your body responds to various triggers, you will be able to better predict and prevent flare-ups.
Possibility of Developing Psoriatic Arthritis
As you think about ways you can improve your psoriasis symptoms with lifestyle changes, it’s also important to understand the risk of developing psoriatic arthritis, a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes swollen and painful joints.
It’s estimated that 30 percent of people with psoriasis will be affected by psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis usually develops after the onset of psoriasis, generally between the ages of 30 and 50. Symptoms of psoriatic arthritis include tender, painful, or swollen tendons and joints, morning pain and stiffness, fatigue, and changes to the nails. If you’re in your 20s and have psoriasis, it’s important to understand the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis so you can be attuned to any early signs. Your dermatologist can help you understand what to look out for.
If you do develop psoriatic arthritis, there are many medications available to prevent long term joint damage and manage day to day pain. Further, the same lifestyle changes that can benefit your skin can also benefit your joints.
You Can Help De-stigmatize Psoriasis
Psoriasis doesn’t stop at skin symptoms or joint symptoms. If you have psoriasis, you may be all too familiar with being the subject of stares, covering up your skin no matter the weather, and awkward conversations with sexual partners.
An article in SELF interviewed nine young people living with psoriasis from all walks of life. They shared their stories of diagnosis, treatment, and navigating social relationships. From the advice of people who have lived with psoriasis for decades, speaking openly to friends, families, and partners can alleviate some of the misinformation and anxiety associated with this stigmatizing condition.
Much of the stigma associated with psoriasis comes from the misperception that your skin symptoms are contagious. While you never have to share information about your health if you don’t feel comfortable, sharing information about psoriasis can help dispel misinformation that perpetuates stigma and social isolation.
If you don’t have psoriasis, learn the facts about psoriasis so you can alleviate the burden on others to explain their condition.
You don’t have to power through alone if the social stigma of psoriasis is impacting you mentally and emotionally. Speaking to a therapist, counselor, or psychologist about the mental side effects of psoriasis is an essential form of self-care.
Take Home Messages
If you live with psoriasis, knowledge is power—treating yourself both with medicine and lifestyle changes can help you keep your symptoms under control. If you don’t have psoriasis, it is likely you have friends or family members facing this autoimmune condition. Being informed will help you support loved ones and begin to understand their struggle.