Although sunburn carries a risk for skin cancer and can make psoriasis worse, regular exposure to the sun helps clear up psoriasis in people with mild-to-moderate conditions. People should cover non-affected areas with clothing or sunscreen and sunbathe only until the skin starts to tan.
Vacations in sunny areas, such as Hawaii or the Caribbean, can offer relief. For those who can afford it, a stay of several weeks at the Dead Sea in Israel has been proven to significantly improve or clear psoriasis in 88% of the patients who travel there. The region offers a unique combination of intense but naturally filtered UVA radiation combined with minerals and salts from the sea.
Because of the association between negative emotions and psoriatic flare-ups, relaxation and anti-stress techniques may be helpful. Hypnosis aimed at reducing stress may relieve symptoms.
Some patients have had a traumatic or stressful event coincide with the appearance of psoriasis. Talking to a psychiatrist about the issue may significantly improve symptoms.
If skin becomes dry and itchy, the patient may try the following:
Some experts say that many common moisturizers may actually increase water loss in psoriasis, but studies have yet to confirm this. In the meantime, if moisturizers help relieve the condition, patients should use them.
Capsaicin (Zostrix) is an ointment prepared from the active ingredient in hot chili peppers. It is used to relieve arthritic pain and may help relieve psoriatic itching. Capsaicin should be handled using a glove and applied to affected areas three or four times daily. The patient will usually have a burning sensation when the drug is first applied, but this sensation lessens with use.
Folic Acid. Patients should be sure they get enough of the B vitamin folate (folic acid). Folate-rich foods include liver, asparagus, fruits, green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, orange juice, and yeast. Many types of bread and other commercial grain products now have added folic acid.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in some fish oils, have anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit some patients with psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions.
Patients with persistent psoriasis may be tempted to try alternative or untested treatments, including herbs and other nontraditional therapies. Green tea slowed the growth of skin cells in animal studies, and may one day prove to be useful in treating psoriasis, but more research is needed.
Various other herbal supplements have been used for psoriasis, but to date no clinical studies have been reported on these substances. Do not use any unproven therapy without first consulting a doctor to be sure such treatment is not harmful, and does not interfere with any medications you take.
Herbal remedies and dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means that manufacturers and distributors do not need FDA approval to sell their products. In addition, any substance that affects the body's chemistry can, like any drug, produce side effects that may be harmful. There have been many reported cases of serious and even deadly side effects from herbal products.
The following are special concerns for people taking natural remedies for psoriasis:
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