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Winter Makes My Psoriasis Worse — What Can I Do?

Managing Psoriasis

December 14, 2023

Content created for the Bezzy community and sponsored by our partners. Learn More

by Stefanie Remson

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Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

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by Stefanie Remson

•••••

Medically Reviewed by:

Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI

•••••

•••••

There’s a range of reasons why you might experience seasonal flares. Here’s what to look out for in the winter and how to manage these added factors.

For many people with psoriasis (PsO), their symptoms are worse during the winter months. In fact, in a 2021 study involving more than 2,000 people, 53.2% of participants said they had worse PsO symptoms in the fall and winter.

There are several possible causes of worsening PsO symptoms in the colder months. Read on to find out why winter may be activating your symptoms and to learn some tips to help change that.

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1. Colder temperatures

In the winter, the air tends to be both colder and drier (less humid), which can cause your skin to retain less moisture. Spending more time indoors with heaters on can add to the skin dryness you may experience.

Drier skin can worsen your PsO symptoms. And colder, drier temperatures can lead to more skin cracking, bleeding, and skin infections.

Also, when it’s colder outside, you may wear thicker clothing, which might irritate your PsO. For example, wool and any fabrics with loose threads can snag on cracks and flaky skin.

To help manage this, you can:

  • Use high quality moisturizers in the winter months.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Consider applying an oil to your skin right out of the shower, followed by a lotion or cream to seal in the moisture.
  • Pat your skin dry with a towel after showering — don’t wipe it dry.
  • Shower with lukewarm water, not hot.
  • Add a humidifier to the rooms you spend the most time in. You can also consider installing a water softener if that’s possible for you.
  • Whenever possible, wear multiple layers of thin cotton instead of one thick, heavily insulated layer.
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2. Lack of sunshine

Sunlight and phototherapy, or ultraviolet (UV) light therapy, can help manage PsO symptoms by penetrating your skin and slowing down the growth of unaffected cells below the surface. This helps stop the autoimmune overgrowth that causes the visible, thick plaques.

There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVB rays are typically used in artificial light therapy to manage PsO plaques.

UVB rays are also found in natural sunlight. In the colder winter months, you may spend less time outdoors and have less exposure to sunlight, which in turn might lead to more skin symptoms.

To help manage this, you can:

  • Spend about 20 minutes per day outdoors in direct sunlight.
  • Talk with your doctor about phototherapy treatments that may be available in your area.

3. Increased stress around the holidays

There are many holidays in the winter months, and holidays can often mean extra stress.

Stress can make it more difficult to manage your PsO symptoms and flares.

To cope with this, you can:

  • Rest whenever possible — don’t underestimate the power of a midday nap.
  • Consider trying meditation or practicing mindfulness.
  • Know your limits, and don’t overcommit to more holiday events than you can handle.
  • Delegate whenever possible, such as by ordering takeout or asking for help with cleaning up.
  • Seek support from a therapist or health and wellness coach.
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4. Flu season

The winter months are also flu and cold season. Illness can contribute to worsening PsO symptoms and flares.

To help manage this, you can:

  • Stay up to date on your recommended vaccines.
  • Load up on vitamin C (100–200 milligrams per day) to help prevent infections.
  • Wash your hands often, and be sure to apply moisturizer afterward to prevent extreme dryness.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and consider wearing a mask when spending time with people.

5. Changes to routine

Winter holidays can lead to busier schedules, which may cause you to prioritize other events over your routine medical appointments or trips to the pharmacy.

Also, medical offices and pharmacies sometimes run a bit behind at this time of year due to limited staffing and reduced holiday hours.

To help manage this, you can:

  • Plan ahead by allotting time for your vital medical appointments.
  • Consider scheduling appointments before or after the holidays.
  • Ask about telehealth options to save time on travel and help prevent missed work.
  • Request your prescription refills early to prevent delays in filling or missing doses.
  • Look into prescription delivery options or ask a friend or family member to pick up medications for you if you can’t leave the house due to the weather.
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6. Cholesterol-related effects

If you have high cholesterol, it can increase your risk for worse flares in the fall and winter.

Methods for managing cholesterol levels can include:

  • eating a low fat diet
  • getting regular exercise
  • taking any prescribed medications
  • seeing your doctor for close monitoring

7. Winter habits

Some people take up certain habits in the colder months or around the holidays that may be associated with worsening of PsO symptoms.

For example, smoking has been shown to make PsO worse in the fall and winter.

Alcohol consumption is also associated with risk factors for severe PsO.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about how to manage these habits to help you feel your best this winter.

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The takeaway

If your PsO is worse during the winter months, consider discussing this change with your doctor. They may be able to suggest treatments, medications, or lifestyle habits that can help.

Medically reviewed on December 14, 2023

4 Sources


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About the author

Stefanie Remson

Ms. Stefanie Remson MSN, APRN, FNP-BC is the CEO and founder of RheumatoidArthritisCoach.com. She is a family nurse practitioner and is a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patient herself. She has spent her entire life serving the community as a healthcare professional and has refused to let RA slow her down. She has worked with The Arthritis Foundation, The Lupus Foundation of America, Healthline, Grace and Able, Arthritis Life, Musculo, Aila, and HopeX. You can learn more at her website and on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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