For some, alcohol may be an enjoyable aspect of life and a key part of celebrating special occasions. For others, alcohol may provide a way to cope with stress. Regardless of your relationship with alcohol, consuming it comes with its own precautions. If you’re living with psoriasis, you’ll need to be mindful of additional health considerations, including alcohol’s effect on your symptoms and treatment.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissue, leading to overactive skin production and buildup. The cause of this response remains unknown, although many experts believe that environmental factors — including alcohol consumption — can trigger or worsen psoriasis.
Research studies have shown that, compared with the general population, people with psoriasis consume more alcohol. The prevalence of alcohol-use disorder — the consumption of alcoholic beverages at a harmful level or a dependence on alcohol — is significantly higher in people with inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis than those with noninflammatory skin diseases.
There appears to be a back-and-forth relationship between alcohol consumption and psoriasis. Stress caused by psoriasis may increase alcohol intake, but alcohol use may also increase psoriasis symptoms.
It’s possible that consuming certain types of alcohol may be a risk factor for developing psoriasis. Results of a 2010 study published in JAMA Dermatology suggested that drinking nonlight beer increased the risk of psoriasis in women. However, the researchers did not find similar results related to other types of alcohol, such as light beer, liquor, and wine. Most studies have examined only alcohol consumption in general, so research about different types of alcohol’s effect on psoriasis is otherwise lacking.
Alcohol is thought to be a psoriasis trigger. Drinking alcohol increases the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory molecules. Because psoriasis results from high levels of inflammation caused by an overactive immune system, alcohol-related inflammation may make psoriasis worse.
Alcohol can also reduce the immune system’s ability to kill infections. When you develop an infection, your immune system becomes more active, which can aggravate psoriasis symptoms. In addition, alcohol may directly contribute to skin lesions by further increasing the proliferation of skin cells.
Many MyPsoriasisTeam members have observed a link between alcohol and flare-ups or worsening of their symptoms. “I have drunk so much alcohol, and I know I will pay the price with itchy skin,” one member shared after attending a party. “Alcohol makes mine worse too!” another member replied.
According to a research review published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, studies have found that women who drank more alcohol were more likely to develop psoriasis.
Alcohol has been shown to worsen flare-ups and skin lesions. A study of more than 1,200 people with psoriasis found a direct relationship between the amount of alcohol they consumed and their Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) score. The more alcohol a person drank, the larger their skin lesions were. The authors of the study wrote that the connection between alcohol and psoriasis symptoms seemed stronger in women but noted that the association has also been found in men.
More research is needed to determine if any types or amounts of alcohol are safe for people with psoriasis.
Alcohol has the potential to interact with psoriasis treatment. It’s best to consult your dermatologist or health care provider for medical advice on alcohol consumption for your psoriasis maintenance and treatment plan.
Liver disease is more common in people with psoriasis than in the general population. Alcohol is processed in the liver, and excessive intake can cause liver damage, called cirrhosis. Many psoriasis treatments — including methotrexate and acitretin (Soriatane) — sometimes cause liver damage. Alcohol may increase their harmful effects on the liver. Alcohol intake should be monitored closely when used in combination with these medications.
Additionally, alcohol changes how your body processes acitretin and reduces the medication’s ability to treat psoriasis symptoms.
Avoiding triggers like alcohol is recommended as a part of the treatment plan for psoriasis. Because of alcohol’s effects on psoriasis symptoms, treatments, and treatment side effects, alcohol use is generally discouraged for people with psoriasis.
In some people, excessive alcohol use can become a mental health problem. If you decide that your alcohol consumption is negatively affecting your psoriasis symptoms or general health, you have many resources to help you quit or cut back on drinking. Share honestly with your primary care provider about how your drinking affects your mental and physical health. Your medical team can recommend treatment options, such as anonymous peer support groups, to help you mentally and socially as you change your drinking habits.
When you’re navigating lifestyle changes or flare-ups in your symptoms, it can help to have the support of people who understand your unique circumstance of living with psoriasis. MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. More than 111,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand.
Have you noticed that alcohol triggers your psoriasis? Do you have tips for cutting back? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.