The body reacts differently to the changing weather, and those who suffer from skin conditions would know that weather always factors in whenever there is a sudden deterioration of the condition.
Eczema (or dermatitis) is a condition wherein the patient develops severely-itchy lesions with fluid-filled vesicles/oozing during an acute exacerbation phase, and psoriasis is a skin disease wherein the turnover of the skin speeds up. Instead of the average two months, the skin turns over in three or four days, leading to red or pink lesions with silvery-white scaling. The lesions usually occur on cooler places of the skin like the elbows, the knees, the scalp, on the palms, soles, etc.
Dr Smriti Naswa Singh, Consultant Dermatologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, says the reason for developing eczema could be external (sun, aero-allergens, some irritant applications, etc.) or internal (familial allergic tendency, endogenous eczema, old age, or a manifestation of other internal diseases like diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease, cancer, HIV, etc.). While psoriasis and eczema do not spread to others, they do flare up during winters or cooler seasons, since the dryness of the skin increases, leading to more itchiness; when a person scratches, the patches aggravate.
Dr Singh suggest the following ways to control the outbursts:
* Change of weather to cooler weather makes the skin dry. Applying a moisturizer is key. Moisturizers work best on wet skin and have to be frequently applied throughout the day.
* Itch-scratch is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken to control the exacerbation. So whenever one feels itchy, they should apply moisturizer and not scratch the area. Oral and topical medications help in controlling the itching sensation; do consult a dermatologist for guidance.
* Weather-change is usually associated with an increase in aero-allergens, so those suffering from atopic dermatitis (eczema due to allergic tendency running in family) suffer more. They should try to keep their immunity high by consuming fruits and vegetables, taking adequate rest and staying away from common allergens like dust, sweat, synthetic clothes, wool etc. Cotton clothing is the preferred choice.
* Stress is known to exacerbate both psoriasis and eczema, and hence, should be avoided. Adequate rest and work-life balance are important factors.
* Psoriasis is directly linked to metabolic syndrome. Psoriatic patients have a tendency to be more prone to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and altered lipid profile. If the person indulges in oily foods, junk foods, gains weight, does not exercise, psoriasis can worsen. Adopting appropriate lifestyle measures will help in such scenarios.
* During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been overzealous in washing hands and using hand sanitizers. Detergent strips off the skin from natural moisturizing factors for at least 6 hours before the skin replenishes it. Sanitizers can be irritant/allergic to sensitive skin. Refrain from excessive use of soaps/washing detergents/sanitizers. Applying a moisturizer after washing/cleaning your hands/feet will help prevent the aggravation.
“A patient can prevent exacerbation of psoriasis and eczema by keeping in mind the aforementioned methods. But for treatment of the lesions, one needs a carefully-formulated, tailor-made prescription of oral/systemic and topical medications. You should visit your dermatologist at first instance of the flare-up, or when the rashes are noted; these can be treated with topical cream formulations alone.
“If unfortunately, there is delay and the disease becomes extensive, oral medications may be required and sometimes, especially in psoriasis and certain cases of endogenous eczemas, there may be a need for control of acute exacerbation. We call such cases as acute skin failure with risk of hypovolemia, infection, electrolyte imbalance and thermal dysregulation,” Dr Singh explains.
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