8 Ways to Relieve Your Psoriasis Itch
Scratching Can Worsen Symptoms
It might not be just the red, scaly plaques from psoriasis that drive you nuts. The itch that goes along with psoriasis can bother you even in places that are lesion free. "It's not always a pure itch," says Gil Yosipovitch, MD, a professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida. Instead, you might feel a burning or pinching sensation. And though the urge to scratch can be hard to resist, scratching can just make psoriasis symptoms worse. Try these steps to find itch relief for psoriasis.
Moisturize to the Max
Keeping your skin moist is extremely important, says Dr. Yosipovitch, because moisture reduces redness and allows your skin to heal. Thick, petroleum-like moisturizers are better than thin, watery lotions for itch relief. Cooking oil or shortening can also sub for drugstore moisturizers and be less expensive. Apply moisturizer and prescription creams or ointments right after your bath or shower to lock in natural skin oils. Bonus tip: Keep your creams in the fridge for a cooling effect.
Soften Stubborn Scales
"Minimizing scaling and flaking can have an anti-itch effect as well," Yosipovitch says. Salicylic acid is a good keratolytic, or peeling agent, to try. As a topical applied to skin, it softens and lifts the scales that can cause lesions to feel itchy. Just beware of products that contain more than 3 percent salicylic acid, as they may be too irritating for psoriasis. Other keratolytic ingredients to look for in skin-care products include lactic acid and urea.
Block the Itch With Capsaicin
Capsaicin — the source of heat in chili peppers, and an ingredient in certain creams and ointments — helps relieve itch by blocking the nerve endings that transmit pain, explains Yosipovitch. German researchers found that over-the-counter creams with capsaicin helped reduce pain and inflammation from psoriasis lesions. Warning: You might feel a burning sensation where you apply the ointment, and it should not be applied to cracked or open skin.
Soothe With Apple Cider Vinegar
Psoriasis lesions on your scalp can itch beyond belief. To find relief, mix equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water. Dab the solution on your scalp two to three times a week. Rinse after a few minutes to keep your scalp from becoming irritated by the vinegar. One caution: Don't try this if the skin on your scalp is cracked or bleeding.
Consider Hot and Cold for Itch Relief
Many people with psoriasis find that a cold-water bath or cold compresses will relieve their itch. Most dermatologists recommend that people with psoriasis avoid hot showers because hot water can dry the skin — and dry skin itches. But Yosipovitch's research shows that for many people, hot showers offer more itch relief than cold ones. His theory: Hot water activates nerve fibers that inhibit itch. Yosipovitch's ultimate recommendation is to do what works best for you. If you find hot showers help relieve itch, you might want to keep them short to avoid drying out your skin too much.
Acupuncture works for some types of itch, and psoriasis seems to be one of them, says Yosipovitch. Though more scientific evidence is needed before dermatologists can say for sure that acupuncture is an effective treatment, a review published in October 2012 in the journalArchives of Internal Medicinefound that acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic pain, and psoriasis symptoms can include chronic pain. Acupuncture also can provide stress relief, which Yosipovitch believes can be good because "any aspect of stress reduction can also help reduce psoriasis itch," he says.
Say Yes to Yoga
Because relieving stress is a key component of treating psoriasis symptoms, it helps to try a variety of stress-relief strategies. Among its many benefits — including greater flexibility and lower blood pressure — yoga is also a great stress reducer, says Yosipovitch, because it combines breathing and relaxation techniques with movement. You'll get the most from yoga if you do it regularly for at least 15 to 20 minutes per session.
Opt for Occlusion Therapy
Occlusion involves slathering on skin products, such as moisturizers and topical cortisone creams, and holding them in place for long periods of time by wrapping each area you treat with plastic wrap or large adhesive bandages. This can help lock in creams, providing more itch relief. Some people do this at night while they sleep because it can feel awkward when you're out and about during the day.
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