Psoriasis flare up? See if you can kick the itch to scratch with these tips

Break the itch/scratch cycle with psoriasis

The word ‘psoriasis’ comes from the Greek word for itch.1 So it is no surprise between 6 and 9 in every 10 people with psoriasis find their skin is itchy.2 Most people with psoriasis think itching is the most bothersome symptom. It can affect your daily life and psychosocial well-being.2

It is tempting to scratch, but this can cause inflammation and make your itching even worse.1 It can also damage your skin which may lead to more plaques or an infection.1 It is important to avoid the temptation to itch.1 Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help you do this:

Treating the itch

It is important to tell a healthcare professional if you are bothered by the itch of your psoriasis so that they can help you seek relief. Treating your psoriasis as discussed with them should then help reduce your itching.

Don’t forget that daily use of moisturising creams (emollients) can help keep your skin hydrated and reduce the itchy feeling.3

Work out what makes you want to scratch

Try to become more aware of what makes you most want to scratch and when this happens. Keep a diary to record this. This will help you see when you scratch the most and if it is a habit at certain times.4

Find substitute behaviours

Finding distractions and keeping busy are also useful ways to stop you thinking about the need to scratch. Try reading a book, watching TV, or something that keeps your hands busy like drawing.1

Ditching the urge to itch

Another technique is called habit reversal. When you feel like scratching clench your fist for 30 seconds. If the itch is still there after 30 seconds, gently pinch or press the area for another 30 seconds. Then get on with something else. The aim is to reduce the time you spend scratching.5

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

UK/IE MAT-26902 Date of prep: July 2019

  1. (accessed July 2019).
  2. JC Szepietowski and A Reich. Curr Probl Dermatol 2016; 50: 102-10.
  3. (accessed July 2019).
  4. Scratch monitoring. St John’s Institute of Dermatology. Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust. 2017.
  5. Habit reversal to reduce scratching and promote healing. St John’s Institute of Dermatology. Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust. 2017.

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