Saunas and psoriasis

Sauna and Psoriasis

This content reflects the views of the individual blogger and is not intended to advise you about your health. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.

Do sauna and psoriasis go together? Are there benefits to it or could a sauna visit much rather entail negative effects for your psoriasis skin? Those are questions which I asked myself a few years ago before my first sauna visit. Today I now use the sauna as part of my weekly routine.

Keep on reading to hear more about my experience with saunas and practical tips on how to get started.

Which type of sauna is suitable for psoriasis skin?

There are two types of saunas, infrared and steam-based. Both types produce heat but from different avenues, with infrared saunas utilising light and steam-based devices heating the air.

Choosing the type of sauna is totally dependent on the person. If you enjoy steam and higher temperatures, the traditional steam-based sauna might be a good choice. Infrared sauna may be a better alternative if you enjoy a lower temperature, but a drier more penetrating heat. 

Are there benefits of using a sauna with psoriasis?

• Cleaning skin pores & increase of blood flow: There are no large trials that have studied the impact of either type of sauna on psoriasis, however,  saunas are reported to increase blood flow and therefore circulation in the skin. Saunas may benefit patients with psoriasis by helping to keep skin lesions free of thick scales.1

• Relaxation: I sometimes (being an understatement) suffer from stress-related psoriasis, and what I have noticed is that going to the sauna after my workout or on my days off can really help to make me relax. Stress is a common trigger of psoriasis flares and so reducing stress levels can only be a good thing! 

• Psoriatic Arthritis: I do not have any personal experiences with psoriatic arthritis, however, I have stumbled upon some research which would be of benefit for those who are affected by this condition. A study in the American Journal of Medicine found that rheumatic disease patients who went to the sauna, had decreased levels of pain and improved joint mobility.1 

Please note: i. Saunas may not always benefit your psoriasis and in some cases can make your skin worse.  ii. There are a number of other health conditions (e.g. heart problems) which prevent people from using a sauna. Always consult your doctor first.

Are there health risks of using saunas with psoriasis?

• Dehydration: The longer you spend in the sauna, the more water and salts you lose. This can increase the risk of dehydration, which in turn may cause low blood pressure and loss of consciousness.

• Increased core body temperature: When we are hot, the body has its own internal mechanism to keep its core temperature at homeostasis. However, if the core temperature of your body overheats and it cannot keep itself cool, it can rise to levels that are dangerous.

Practical tips for sauna with psoriasis

Before you enter the sauna

• Consult your doctor: Although this is more of a leisure activity than treatment, make sure you check with your physician before starting any new therapeutic treatment.

• Find companions: In my case I always like to go with my brother, We not only relax and meditate, but use the opportunity to talk, bond and express our thoughts and feelings. 

During your sauna session

• Keep hydrated: Time can fly when you're having fun! This means that you can miss out on drinking water and you can become at risk of dehydration. When using the sauna, I would advise getting out every few minutes to hydrate before getting back into the sauna. Please stop and get out of the sauna immediately if you experience dizziness, discomfort or weakness.

• Take regular breaks:. When heading into the sauna, I spend no longer than 10-15 minutes in there. In that time I also get out for a few minutes to cool down, before jumping back in. I would rather be conservative with my sauna sessions than push myself and be at risk of dehydration and over-heating.

• Relax: It’s important to realise that sauna visits are more of a stress-relief than treatment – so relax, breathe and enjoy the process! 

• Keep it short and sweet: In my opinion going into the sauna for long periods of time means higher risk of adverse effects i.e. dehydration and overheating. The Finnish Sauna Society recommends that individuals with health risks such as skin disease, should stick to moderate temperatures of below 90°C. I usually stay for 10 minutes with temperatures around 60 - 80°C.

After your sauna session

• Wash and moisturise after sauna: As soon as you get out of the sauna, be sure to immediately wash yourself, as the salts from your sweat can cause a burning sensation and further aggravate your psoriasis. I usually pat the skin dry (as opposed to rubbing it) and use a moisturiser afterwards to rehydrate the skin.

• Replace your lost salts: When you sweat, you lose water and minerals, so it is best to replace both! After my sauna, I usually have a low sugar electrolyte drink, as I like to watch my calorie intake, together with a well-balanced meal.

The above information is based on my personal experience of psoriasis and saunas....but remember everyone is different! In my opinion it is great for both mental and physical well-being and helps to alleviate emotional stress which can be a common trigger of psoriasis. Always seek advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professionals.

References

  1. Hannuksela, M. and Ellahham, S. (2001). Benefits and risks of sauna bathing. The American Journal of Medicine, 110(2), pp.118-126.

UK/IE MAT-13067. Date of Preparation: November 2017

Blog post developed in partnership with LEO Pharma.

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