Aging with Psoriasis
Though it’s a condition that can occur at any point in our lives, psoriasis can be particularly troubling as we get older. As we age, our skin’s natural changes can influence how effective treatments are and what is most appropriate for our bodies.
Most people have learned what psoriasis treatments help alleviate their symptoms, but as we age, new factors can come into play.
One of the hallmarks of becoming older is that our hair color tends to change, and many people reaching middle age, especially women, tend to color their hair. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, hair dye can be a skin irritant for those who have scalp psoriasis. Using a medicated coal tar shampoo has been proven effective in reducing scalp inflammation and cell growth on the scalp, and can be used before a salon appointment.
Discussing your condition with the stylist before your service is helpful too. Not only will it allow you to explain your condition and how it is a chronic skin condition triggered by your immune system, not something that can be passed from one individual to the next. You might also want to make the stylist aware that any scalp scrubbing, especially with fingernails, should be avoided.
Brown spots, wrinkles and other sun damage may also appear as we reach middle age, and they can be a particular issue for those who use sunlight as a natural psoriasis treatment. One of the most common prescriptions to help fade this type of skin damage is retinol, which can be too harsh for psoriasis-affected skin. Your dermatologist can advise if this type of treatment is appropriate for your skin or if other options are available.
Those psoriasis patients who use sunscreens may find that harsh chemical ingredients irritate their skin. Simple options are available, from avoiding the sun during peak hours and wearing loose-fitting clothing when outdoors to limiting sun exposure to the areas of skin only affected by psoriasis.
Aging skin tends to be dry skin, and psoriasis itself is a condition that presents itself as dry and itchy. As your skin ages, it’s important to keep it moist and hydrated. Fortunately, there are simple daily steps that help, including regular use of a moisturizing cream to ensure your body is properly hydrated.
Specific moisturizing creams have been developed for use in managing psoriasis. Look for creams that include natural moisturizing ingredients, which are less likely to irritate your skin. Creams that include salicylic acid will also help loosen existing scales.
Some beverages, such as those containing caffeine and alcohol, actually dehydrate our bodies. Making it a priority to consume a regular amount of water daily will help keep your skin properly hydrated.
The older we become, the more we can be susceptible to drug interactions. Because of this, the National Psoriasis Foundation also recommends that older patients try using topical treatments to first treat limited psoriasis before considering oral or injected medications. Over time, our kidneys become less effective at removing waste and these medications can build up in the body. Other treatment options, such as phototherapy, may become more appropriate options.
The American Academy of Dermatologists also notes that how our skin responds to topical medication can change as we get older. If you are applying a topical medication to areas with psoriasis and see any of the following changes, you should bring it to the attention of your doctor:
- Thinning or more transparent skin
- Skin that seems to bruise or tear more easily
- Purple spots
- The new appearance of blood vessels
Does Psoriasis Subside with Age?
Unfortunately, psoriasis won’t go away with age. Symptoms may be less noticeable over time, but the underlying cause of psoriasis, which is connected to your immune system, is persistent. If symptoms go away, they will probably return.
Some people dealing with psoriasis over time may find that they develop related conditions, such as psoriatic arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people develop psoriasis first and then start to experience the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis later, typically between the ages of 30 and 50. These symptoms can occur anywhere in the body, and mimic the random flareups of psoriasis.
The most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are:
- Swollen fingers and/or toes, which can occur before actual joint pain
- Foot pain where the tendons and ligaments attach to your heel or sole of your foot
- Lower back pain, which can be inflammation of the joints between your spine and your vertebrae or pelvis
If you have psoriasis and feel that you are experiencing unusual or new joint pain, stiffness or joints that are warm to the touch, it’s important to let your physician know. Psoriatic arthritis, like psoriasis, is a chronic immune disorder.
Some psoriasis treatments can simply become less effective over time, for reasons that are not well understood. As with all medical conditions, it’s a good idea to have your physician or specialist review your psoriasis treatment on an annual basis to ensure that it is the best and most effective approach for you.