Coping with the call of the itch

Bring your itching under control

Psoriasis and skin irritation often go hand in hand, with many people reporting regular outbreaks of itchy skin.1 While scratching doesn’t actually make psoriasis spread, it does interfere with healing. So how can you avoid it? There are several steps you can take to help you to cope with the symptoms of psoriasis and bring
the itching under control. Here are seven simple ideas that might make a difference:

1. Make sure you treat your psoriasis

For help with your itching you need to target the underlying cause – your psoriasis. Emollient creams can help to soothe skin and keep it moist, while many cream- or ointment-based treatments contain ingredients that can reduce both itching and inflammation.

When you scratch wounded skin, you stop it from getting better.

2. Soothe the affected area

Apply a cold compress to the affected area. A raging itch is often accompanied by a burning sensation and cooling the skin down may help reduce the urge to scratch.

3. Don’t let your skin get too dry

Dry skin feels itchier than moisturized skin, so moisturize your skin regularly with emollient cream or ointment. Winter can take a toll on your skin. The combination of dry air, indoor heating, wind, cold temperatures, heavy clothing and decreased sunlight exposure can pose challenges when you have psoriasis. In the summer heavy air conditioning can also dry out the skin. So, keep your skin well moisturized and consider using a humidifier, especially during winter.

4. Clothes and shoes

Wear light and breathable clothes that don’t irritate your skin. Avoid synthetic clothing that hinders perspiration and may irritate when in contact with the skin. Also try to avoid very tight clothes, especially at the waist. Clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen and silk are preferable. Many psoriasis patients also prefer to wear bright colors to make shed skin cells less visible.

If your feet are affected, choose shoes that keep your feet cool and dry by allowing air to circulate freely. Avoid synthetic shoes and try using foam, polymer, cork or water-filled insoles to act as shock absorbers and relieve pressure on the skin. Try to stay away from shoes with pointed toes, and avoid socks or tights made from synthetic fibers.

5. Resist the urge to scratch

While scratching won’t make your psoriasis spread, it could inflame your skin still further, causing lesions to become more painful, sore and even cracked. And when you scratch wounded skin, you stop it from getting better.

6. Ask a doctor for help

If the itching is really getting you down, discuss it with your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend an alternative treatment for your condition; or put you in touch with a support group, which will enable you to discuss coping skills with people in a similar situation. Hopefully, these simple steps can make a difference if the urge to itch is affecting you. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone, and that help is available. All you have to do is ask.

[References]

1. Reich A. et al. Acta Dermato-Venereologica 2007;87:299-304, p. 299.

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