Psoriasis causes and triggers

Lesley Dobson / 18 November 2014

There are a number of causes that may be linked to the onset of psoriasis, and many factors that may affect subsequent 'flare ups'. We take a look at some of the most common.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis happens when your skin produces skin cells more quickly than it should do normally. Skin cells are made in the lower (basal) layer of your skin (epidermis). As the top layer (epidermis) of your skin is shed, the lower layers move up to the surface and are shed in turn. It usually takes three to four weeks for this cycle to happen.

When you have psoriasis, this process happens much faster – cells can be created and shed within three to four days. This creates a pile-up of skin – the plaques typical of psoriasis – on the outer layer of your skin. It also causes the dandruff that comes with scalp psoriasis.

Read more about the symptoms of psoriasis

Can you inherit psoriasis?

Psoriasis can be inherited. If you develop psoriasis when you’re young, it’s more likely that you’ve inherited it, than if you develop psoriasis when you’re older. In families where one parent has psoriasis, a child has about a on in four chance of developing it.

According to the British Skin Foundation, in cases that aren’t inherited, psoriasis can be caused or, if you already have the condition, triggered by stress, obesity, a throat infection (usually in children) or your skin being damaged by a cut, insect bite or sunburn.

Read more about what stress does to your health

How smoking and drinking affect psoriasis

Studies have found that smoking and heavy drinking can increase your risk of developing psoriasis, and reduce your chances of having a remission.

Read our guide to giving up smoking

How hormones affect psoriasis

Triggers – things that can make your psoriasis worse – include hormonal changes especially in women when going through the menopause, for instance. Sunlight usually makes psoriasis better, but in some people can make it worse.

Find out more about menopause symptoms and how to ease hot flushes

Medicines that can trigger psoriasis

Sunburn can trigger a flare up, as can certain medications. These include ACE inhibitors, that are prescribed for high blood pressure, beta blockers, used for anxiety, some heart conditions and thyroid problems, and even ibuprofen. All of these can act as triggers, so talk to your GP before taking any new over-the-counter medicine or natural remedies.

Read more about what you need to know about painkillers

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.