If you have psoriasis and allergies, you may have wondered if your allergy flare-ups are making your skin condition worse.
No need to guess: doctors and researchers have found no link between the two problems. Here four experts go into both conditions and explain what can trigger them.
Although psoriasis and allergies both affect your immune system, the causes for them are not linked.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. This means that your body’s immune system is mistakenly attacking some of its own healthy cells.
An allergy occurs when your immune system reacts to something most people don’t have a problem with, like pollen, pet dander, or certain foods.
Some people confuse psoriasis with allergies before seeing a doctor, as both conditions can cause itchy, red skin.
“A lot of people think they have allergic skin problems and when I see them they have psoriasis,” says Clifford Bassett, MD, an allergist and immunologist in New York City. “If you suspect it’s one thing, it could be something else.”
So get a dermatologist check-up if your skin is itchy or flaky, he says.
The stress factor
If you have psoriasis, stress can be partly responsible when the disease first appears and flares up again. Stress can also trigger your allergies.
“When you have an allergic reaction, your body works hard,” says Julie Pena, MD, a private practice dermatologist in Nashville. “It’s trying to fight something. When your body goes through stressful events, it changes the immune system. We know that stress can cause psoriasis to flare up. [even] the inner stress of what your body is going through. “
Drugs can have an effect
Doctors have found that the drugs used to treat allergies can improve or worsen psoriasis, although this does not happen often.
Sometimes doctors treat allergies with steroids like prednisone, says San Diego-based dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio, MD. “We know that when the prednisone stops, psoriasis can flare up.”
The opposite can also happen.
Some people’s psoriasis has reportedly improved once they are treated for their hay fever, says Abby S. Van Voorhees, MD, director of the Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. “It’s hard to say, was it just a coincidence?”
Even people who take anti-psoriasis medications that weaken the immune system might find they have fewer allergies, “but that’s not proven,” says Pena.
Blow in the wind
Some doctors say that people with psoriasis and allergies can sometimes have flare-ups of both at similar times of the year. But they let their patients know that it is the season or the weather that is to blame, not the state of health itself.
Winter temperatures or dry air can make some people’s allergies worse, and these types of weather can also flare up psoriasis, says Benabio.
Tips to avoid flares
Psoriasis cannot make allergies worse, and vice versa. But you can decrease your chances of either flare-up if you avoid issues that affect both of them:
- Reduce stress. It can affect either condition, Bassett says. Try to relax or avoid drama at home or at work.
- Manage itchy skin. Psoriasis can flare up in areas where your skin is damaged. If you have hives or an allergic reaction and scratch that area too hard, the damage your nails do can make your psoriasis worse. Try an over-the-counter cortisone cream or ask your doctor to prescribe a stronger version.