Sun and Psoriasis: Benefits and Risks
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition resulting from an autoimmune disease in which your immune system produces too many skin cells. The cells accumulate on the surface of your skin. As the skin cells shed, they form red welts that are thick and raised and may have silvery scales. The welts can be painful or itchy.
Common treatments include topical medications that reduce inflammation, and oral or injected medications that suppress your immune system. However, another form of treatment for psoriasis involves one of the most natural elements on earth: the sun.
The sunâ€™s ultraviolet rays are made up of UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more effective at treating psoriasis symptoms because they slow the rapid rate of skin growth and shedding.
Although sunlight can benefit psoriasis, you should take care to protect yourself from sunburn. Psoriasis predominantly strikes light-skinned people. They are at a greater risk for sunburn and dangerous forms of cancer such as melanoma. Natural sunbathing is not monitored in a medical setting like phototherapy. And medications you may be taking can increase photosensitivity. This can heighten your risk of sunburn and skin cancer.
Treatment typically starts with a 10-minute exposure at noon. You can gradually increase your exposure time by 30 seconds daily.
You should still wear sunscreen, even when you want your skin to soak up the sunâ€™s rays. For the best (and safest) results, follow these tips:
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to all areas of unaffected skin.
- Wear sunglasses.
- Do natural sun therapy sessions when the sun is at its strongest.
- Stay outside for only 10 minutes at a time to reduce the risk of sun damage. As long as your skin can tolerate the exposure, you can slowly increase your sun exposure by 30 seconds to 1 minute each day.
The sun not only helps clear psoriasis symptoms in some cases, but also it makes your body produce more vitamin D.
Psoriasis and vitamin D
Vitamin D can help reduce inflammation throughout your body. The nutrient, as well as the UV rays from light exposure, can help clear or prevent psoriasis plaques. Sunlight triggers your body to make the nutrient, which is beneficial to strong bones and immune function. Vitamin D is a nutrient found in few foods naturally.
- fortified milk and orange juice
- fortified margarine and yogurt
- salmon tuna
- egg yolks
- Swiss cheese
Sun therapy and diet are not the only ways to treat psoriasis. Talk to your doctor about using topical vitamin D ointments or creams to manage your symptoms.
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