Living with a chronic health condition is never easy. Add on a cancer diagnosis and it may seem like managing both can become very challenging. This is especially true if you are living with psoriasis, which is a chronic autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks healthy cells, causing uncomfortable plaques of dry, silvery skin to appear.
Recent studies have shown that people with psoriasis have an increased risk of developing cancer. This may be because psoriasis medications suppress the immune system in order to manage symptoms, but it can also be related to the chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis as well as lifestyle choices that are common among psoriasis patients.
If you’ve been diagnosed with both cancer and psoriasis, then you might have to be a bit more diligent when it comes to managing your psoriasis outbreaks. Below are a few tips that you can use to help soothe your skin and keep yourself healthy.
Keep Your Skin Moisturized
The best thing you can do to manage a psoriasis flare-up is to keep your skin hydrated. You’ll need to work on adding moisture back into your skin and try to prevent it from escaping. Products like lotions and heavy creams do an excellent job at saturating the skin and replenishing moisture, while oils and ointments are best used to prevent it from losing moisture.
Now you might be tempted to only focus on plaques when moisturizing, but it’s also important to lotion up your entire body. Neglecting to care for your un-affected skin can lead to dry patches forming in spots that are otherwise healthy. Taking care of all of your skin will help prevent your outbreak from spreading.
If you are battling both cancer and psoriasis, then you may find yourself spending a lot of time in a doctor’s office. This is especially true for those undergoing chemotherapy. You may notice that your skin is drier and more brittle, which can worsen a psoriasis flare-up. You’ll need to find a lotion or cream that you can keep with you to apply during and after your treatments to replenish some of the moisture that was lost.
Resist the Urge to Scratch
Living with psoriasis often means dealing with bouts of itchiness. While this may seem inevitable, there are things you can do to keep your itchiness at bay. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you resist the urge to scratch. The temporary relief isn’t worth the additional damage you can cause to your skin. Scratching can also lead to your plaques becoming infected.
Luckily there are steps you can take to minimize your itchiness safely. Of course, keeping your skin moisturized will help aid in the discomfort. Another step you can take is to remove the scales that are sitting on top of your plaques. This often requires the use of medicine like salicylic acid or coal tar to help loosen the skin and make removal easy. You can then go in with a dry brush and get rid of all the skin that is attributing to your discomfort.
You’ll also want to limit the amount of time you spend bathing. Counterintuitively, water can actually dry out your skin and make your itching worse. These effects are intensified when the water is hot. To keep your itching at bay you’ll want to keep your showers and baths to about five minutes or less and to use warm water rather than hot water.
Lastly, if the urge to scratch is unbearable, you can try adding cold and warm compresses to the affected areas. A cold compress often alleviates some of the itch associated with psoriasis, while warm compresses can ease some of the pain. Alternating between the two is the best way to combat these irritations.
By keeping your itchiness under control, you’re able to reduce your chances of your outbreak spreading out of control.
Watch What You Eat
Believe it or not, your diet can have a huge effect on your ability to manage your psoriasis. Psoriasis plaques are accompanied by inflamed skin. Although there isn’t a specific diet that can cure your psoriasis, the foods you eat can reduce some of this inflammation. If you find yourself in the middle of an outbreak, try to reach for foods like tomatoes, fatty fish, nuts, and leafy greens that have anti-inflammatory properties.
In addition to adding those foods to your diet, you’ll also want to cut out things that can worsen your symptoms. Alcohol is a huge component in worsening psoriasis flare-ups, as it can cause inflammation in the body and exasperate symptoms. Reducing or eliminating alcohol from your diet can reduce the severity of psoriasis flare-ups.
Be Careful About Your Medications
You may have been prescribed medications to help manage your psoriasis flare-ups. These tools are great things to reach for when you’re trying to manage an outbreak. However, these medicines might not always be an option if you’re trying to manage a different health condition. This is especially true for cancer patients. Some psoriasis medications may interfere with cancer treatments.
If you’ve been diagnosed with both cancer and psoriasis, you’ll have to consult with your doctor about how your cancer treatments may interfere with your psoriasis medications and vice versa. Both diseases affect individuals differently, so it’s important that your health care provider works with you to create a plan that is completely unique to your body and your situation.
The Bottom Line
Psoriasis flare-ups are a natural part of living with this disease. Finding ways to manage these uncomfortable symptoms can greatly improve your quality of life. The combination of dealing with cancer and psoriasis is no easy feat, but with the right mindset and dedication, you can overcome the struggles.
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What are some other ways to help get through flare-ups? Let us know in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from our community members!