One of the most irritating symptoms of psoriasis is the itchiness. Sometimes, it might not even be in places where patches have formed on your skin, but also in places that are lesion-free. As noted by Gil Yosipovitch, professor and chair of the dermatology department at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, “It’s not always a pure itch.”
While it is difficult to avoid scratching the places where you itch, it is essential as scratching can make psoriasis symptoms worse. Relief for this symptom can be a great help in treating psoriasis, and thus a few ways to find relief for itchiness is compiled below.
Moisturize A Lot
Moisture helps reduce redness and heals the skin, explains Yosipovitch, so keeping your skin moist is important. For relieving itchiness, opt for thick moisturizers instead of water-downed lotions. Look for fragrance-free moisturizers to avoid further irritation to your skin. It is often recommended for one to moisturize right after bathing or showering in order to lock in natural skin oils.
For extra relief and cooling effect, keep your creams in the fridge (if permitted).
Soften Stubborn Scales
“Minimizing scaling and flaking can have an anti-itch effect as well,” Yosipovitch states. Look for salicylic acid topical medications for treating scaling. The acid is a peeling agent, and so helps softens and lifts the scales that may be causing that itchy feeling.
Before obtaining the medication, make sure the medication contains less than 3% salicylic acid, as any more than that can cause irritation to psoriasis. As well, consult your dermatologist if you are taking other topical medications, as the acid can cause burns to the skin and other side effects. Make sure you are following instructions on that comes with the medication.
Other ingredients that work as peeling agents to look for in skin care products include, but are not limited to, lactic acid, phenol, and urea.
Block it With Capsaicin
According to a study published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, over-the-counter creams with capsaicin as an ingredient helped reduce pain and inflammation caused by psoriasis. It also helps relieve itching sensations because of how it works by blocking nerve endings that transmit pain, says Yosipovitch. Capsaicin is the source of heat in chili peppers — so you might feel a burning sensation when the topical is applied.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A common area psoriasis affects is the scalp. Because the skin on your scalp is a bit more easily irritated compared to other parts of your body, it may be hard to find relief when it comes to itchiness caused by psoriasis lesions on the scalp. A solution is to mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water and apply the mixture to the scalp two to three times a week. Leave it for a few minutes, then rinse it off so the scalp is not irritated by the vinegar.
If your scalp is cracked or bleeding, don’t try this remedy.
Hot and Cold Showers/Baths
A lot of people with psoriasis discover that cold showers, baths, or compresses bring itch relief. But research done by Yosipovitch shows that hot showers, baths, or compresses can actually bring more relief than cold showers. He theorizes that this is because hot water can activate nerve fibers that suppress itch.
While most dermatologists don’t recommend people with psoriasis to take hot showers — hot showers dries the skin and dry skin gets itchy — Yosipovitch says to do what works best for you. If you find hot showers to offer more relief than cold ones, try keeping them short or be sure to moisturize afterwards.
Acupuncture works only for some types of itch, and luckily psoriasis seems to be one of them, observes Yosipovitch. Whether or not acupuncture is an effective treatment for psoriasis cannot be determined until more research is done, but there has been reviews of acupuncture other symptoms of psoriasis such as chronic pain. One of these reviews was published in the October 2012 publication of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Acupuncture is also known to provide stress relief, which can help reduce itch caused by psoriasis, says Yosipovitch.
Relieving stress can be key to relieving itch and other psoriasis symptoms, so stress-relief strategies can be extremely helpful in treating psoriasis. Yosipovitch explains that because yoga is a combination of breathing and relaxation techniques and movement, it is great for relieving stress. It also provides a plethora of other benefits like better flexibility and lower blood pressure.
Like most treatments, consistency is key: yoga is most effective if it is done on a regular basis, for at least 15 to 20 minutes per session.
Occlusion therapy is when you put on skin products (moisturizers, topical creams, etc) and hold them in place by wrapping each place you had apply the product with tape or plastic wrap. By holding the products in place, it can help lock in creams and provide itch relief. Most people do this at night while they are sleeping, as it can be rather uncomfortable to have plastic wrap around areas of your skin during the day.
It is highly suggested to consult your doctor before doing occlusion therapy, especially if you want to use steroid or any other prescribed topical medication.
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