Did Getting Sunburn Trigger my Psoriasis?

Psoriasis has many triggers. Stress is the most well-known thing that can cause a flare. But what about something else?

How about sunburn? It is also well-known that areas of sunburn can cause psoriasis to flare, which is known as Koebnerisation. Some sun is actually good for the skin, helping to relieve symptoms of psoriasis in many patients. But that has to be watched by a medical professional who can monitor it.

Sunburn led to psoriasis flares

Let me take you back to a time in my teenage years. It’s summer vacation. I was just going out for the day when I remembered I needed sunscreen. I popped to the shop and then came home and applied it all over my body. I was heading to a funfair with the family, had loads of fun on the rides, getting something to eat and just generally chilling out and relaxing.

But something happened in the next few days which I remember. Bits of my face had burned, with my nose a particularly troublesome part. It appeared that I had too much sunshine and didn’t apply enough sunscreen over the course of the day. That led to a burnt nose and face. I ignored it, believing it would go away. It did, for the most part. But I noticed I was itching and scratching a lot more.

The psoriasis flare spread

Then, a few days later, I noticed the first stages of a psoriasis outbreak. It not only started on my forehead but moved to my stomach, arms and legs too. It was like my worst nightmare. I kept on itching and scratching. Some of the lesions would bleed. I believed the sunburn would clear and that would be it, but it was not the case.

My psoriasis gradually got worse, and it never really cleared up in the decade long struggle that followed. My psoriasis just got worse. I would try every treatment over-the-counter, every moisturizer, every emollient, but nothing could shift it.

I was put on hospital light treatment a few years back, but again, while it got rid of it in the interim, the long-term effects stayed with me. Until that is, I tried a biologic. I have now been free of psoriasis for 10 months, which is the longest that my condition has been under control for. But clearly, that impact has stayed with me and it’s what I remember most from my psoriasis outbreaks. So, what have I sought to do about it?

Treating sunburn and psoriasis flares

I keep seeing my healthcare team. That includes my doctor and dermatologist. Over the years, I’ve tried lots of treatments, but it’s only the biologic that has given me long-term relief.

The second thing I’ve done is I've kept moisturizing. I use a non-perfume moisturizer that I soak into the skin in the mornings and evenings. I don’t this so much now, other than on my face, because all the lesions have cleared up thanks to the biologic.

The third thing I’ve done is tried to take better care of myself. There’s a lot on diet and skin, and while I don’t currently monitor my diet, I do try and eat the right foods and stay in as good a shape as I can. If your mind feels good, then your body should too.

Can sunburn trigger psoriasis? Maybe.

But that initial outbreak after the sunburn incident made me wonder. Can sunburn trigger psoriasis? And was that what happened in my case?

It may not be the case that it was a sunburn and it could have flared due to stress (I was going through exams and testing from school at the time), but it seems too coincidental that as soon as I get burnt at the fair, suddenly, I’m itching and scratching a lot more and then seeing lesions bleed. It feels too coincidental to me to be anything but the sunburn.

And it’s certainly made sure I lather up a lot more now! Before going out in the sun I apply lots of sunscreen and keep it topped up at regular intervals throughout the day. So far, the sun hasn’t been too hot here in the UK, I’ve only had to do apply in my travels.

But nonetheless, this has all helped, but still left me wondering: was my psoriasis triggered from a sunburn?

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