How Picking a Psoriasis Plaque Can Lead to Other Problems
Living with and managing psoriasis can come with many different challenges. This condition has several comorbidities which include physical and mental health conditions.
Why shouldn't we pick our plaques?
A sure-start way of making psoriasis and its associated effects worse is by picking, scratching, or rubbing a plaque. It may sound daft and crazy, but lots of us that live with this condition, pick our plaques. It can provide relief to an itch or scratch sensation and may make the plaque less troublesome for us, even if for just a few minutes.
The Koebner Phenomenon
Picking a plaque can cause and trigger what’s known as the Koebner Phenomenon. This is when a new scrape, bruise, cut or other skin injury triggers even more psoriasis outbreaks. When we peel, pick or scratch - we are creating a new skin injury that in turn triggers a bigger skin response. Knowing about a Koebner Phenomenon can be a helpful reminder to refrain from scratching. Heavy scratching could trigger even more plaques.
Sometimes, however, we may scratch or pick a plaque because it’s fun. I know it sounds odd, but you can get into a habit of picking a plaque as a way to pass the time or get the personal fulfillment of having it completely removed. I used to do this in the early stages of my condition when I was just diagnosed. Not really considering the long-term impact or how it might make my psoriasis worse, I would scratch the plaques like any other itchy part of the skin.
The risk of infection
If the Koebner Phenomenon doesn’t scare or trigger you, let me also share, by picking or scratching plaques not only do you risk making a flare worse, you also risk infecting the area. With the success of my biologic, I found myself scratching my remaining psoriasis plaques. I caused the area to become infected.
Not only was this yet another skin nuisance, but this also impacted my current treatment. I was unable to take any psoriasis medication other than the injection for a period of time. If you’re thinking of scratching or picking a plaque, try to resist. I know it can be hard but I promise you, it’s worth not doing or over-thinking about.
Helpful tips to avoid scratching
What can you do if you feel yourself picking or scratching a plaque?
Moisturize! The first and usual psoriasis tip would immediately put moisturizer or ointment cream on the affected area. For me, this always helps the urge to scratch as it immediately soothes the skin.
Reach out to your doctor. If that doesn’t help and the scratching has led to a flare, try contacting your medical team. They will be able to prescribe medication that will bring the outbreak under control.
Commit to training yourself. Try to train yourself to not think about your plaques too. This is difficult, but get into a habit of whenever the urge to pick or scratch comes, you do something else. Chat with a friend, make a cup of tea or watch the TV.
There will always be a moment when we scratch or pick our plaques, but learning not to could help you manage the condition better. At least, that’s what I’ve learned.
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