Psoriasis and Mold: Can It Trigger or Worsen Psoriasis? | MyPsoriasisTeam

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Psoriasis and Mold: Can It Trigger or Worsen Psoriasis?

Medically reviewed by Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Posted on May 22, 2023

Mold exposure has been gaining attention in recent years as a potential trigger for psoriasis or making it worse. Many triggers and risk factors can contribute to the development of psoriasis. For example, genetics play a large role in determining who develops the disease. Environmental factors can also trigger psoriasis. Smoking, obesity, and bacterial infections are all linked to a higher risk of developing the condition. This information leads many people to wonder whether mold might be a psoriasis symptom trigger.

“I believe mold counts are through the roof, and I think mold might be a trigger for me,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member said about a recent flare. Another member said, “I had a wonderful day! I changed the filter in my shower and a new shower head, and after my shower, my psoriasis nearly disappeared! There was mold in the shower head. I feel like a new person!”

If you suspect mold may be contributing to your psoriasis flare-ups, you can take steps to regain control of your symptoms. Here’s more background about the potential connection between mold and psoriasis and how to stop mold from negatively affecting your skin.

Risk of Psoriasis

Many different factors can affect who gets psoriasis, and there’s still a lot that scientists don’t know. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells, causing the skin to make new cells at an abnormally fast rate. For this reason, one particular area of interest is how infections affect the immune system, potentially triggering immune-related conditions like psoriasis. Aside from bacterial infections, fungal infections may change the healthy bacteria in the gut and promote abnormal immune responses and high inflammation levels.

Scientists have also identified links between mold exposure in the childhood home and the later development of various health issues, including asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema). Some people believe there’s a chance similar risks may apply to psoriasis, but more research is needed to determine whether such a link exists.

Fungal Infections

Because mold is a fungus, it’s important to examine the link between fungi and psoriasis. Psoriasis can cause nails to grow abnormally, so people with psoriasis are more prone to fungal infections of the fingernails and toenails. Evidence from the journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine cites that the fungus Malassezia might play a role in psoriatic skin lesions, especially on the scalp.

Researchers found significantly higher rates of Candida fungus in samples from people with psoriasis compared to those without the condition. In skin samples, the rate was 15 percent for those with psoriasis and 4 percent for those without. Oral samples showed Candida in 60 percent of people with psoriasis compared to 20 percent in control groups.

“Quite a few people are noticing the link between psoriasis and Candida,” explained one MyPsoriasisTeam member. “All this time, I have been focusing on malnutrition, malabsorption, and allergies. The thought that a yeast infection could be the underlying cause never crossed my mind. I’ve had oral thrush for years and did not pay it any attention. I started an over-the-counter Candida treatment a few days ago. Talk to your doctor and watch out for the signs and symptoms.”

One common issue is that nail fungus and nail psoriasis can look very similar, making it difficult to tell them apart. Sometimes, nail psoriasis is misdiagnosed as nail fungus because both conditions can cause discolored, thickened nails. Other times, the two conditions happen at the same time because the abnormal growing psoriatic nail is more easily infected.

One member expressed frustration over trying to get the right diagnosis. “I’m confused if it’s nail fungus or psoriasis. Does anyone have experience with foot psoriasis and toenail issues? One doctor told me it was nail and foot fungus. But a dermatologist said I have psoriasis on my feet. How can I be sure this is diagnosed and treated correctly?”

If you notice any new symptoms on your nails, call your dermatologist for an evaluation. Nail psoriasis and onychomycosis (fungal nail infection) often look similar. A nail clipping can be stained for fungus or used to grow a fungal culture. If this is positive, then there is fungus but it does not rule out psoriasis.

Biologics

Some medications for psoriasis affect the immune system’s ability to fight off infections. If your psoriasis treatment includes biologics (medications made from living cells), it’s important to take precautions to avoid getting sick or exposed to certain fungal infections. Studies from the journal Cutis show that some people who take biologics for psoriasis have a superficial fungal infection. Some of these medications can be associated with deeper, invasive fungal infections. If you suspect any type of infection while taking biologics, prompt treatment can help keep you safe.

Mold Allergies

Like other allergies, mold allergies happen when the immune system views mold spores as foreign invaders. In response, the body produces antibodies to fight against mold, causing symptoms like sneezing, itchy eyes, wheezing, and skin rashes. Mold allergies can worsen existing health problems, like asthma and skin diseases.

For some people, allergies can be a psoriasis trigger. Cleveland Clinic states that 1 out of every 5 people with allergies is allergic to mold. But unfortunately, mold allergies often go undetected, as people don’t always realize they’re being exposed to mold or allergic to it.

Many kinds of mold can cause allergies. For instance, some mold allergies prevent people from taking the medication penicillin (which is made from mold) or eating certain mushrooms. Environmental mold can be indoor or outdoor, depending on the specific type.

What You Can Do

If you’re not sure why your psoriasis is acting up and suspect mold as a trigger, it’s a good idea to have an allergy test. Mold isn’t necessarily the sole cause of psoriasis, but you could be sensitive to it. Your doctor can check for various common allergies, including mold, to help identify potential triggers that are making your psoriasis symptoms worse. If you’re allergic to mold (or anything else), you may be advised to take over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines to prevent an allergic reaction. You’ll also need to consider ways to adjust your lifestyle to avoid coming into contact with allergens.

Regardless of whether you’re allergic, you should take steps to keep mold out of their living space. Mold can cause other health problems and structural damage to your home.

Some general tips to prevent mold include:

  • Avoid carpeting in the bathrooms and basement.
  • Clean your rain gutters.
  • Change the filters on your furnace regularly, and clean forced air heating ducts as needed.
  • Install a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your air-conditioning unit to catch mold spores.
  • Keep your home’s humidity at 50 percent or lower (use a dehumidifier if needed).
  • Remove fallen leaves from around the foundation of your house.
  • Store old books and newspapers in a dry area, or get rid of them.
  • Ventilate the bathroom with a fan or open window to reduce humidity quickly after bathing or showering.

It’s also important to be aware of mold at work or in other places where you spend extended time. People who repair furniture, practice carpentry, bake, make wine, do millwork or logging, practice farming, or work in a greenhouse have a higher chance of mold exposure. Even working in an older building or an area with poor ventilation or high humidity can put you at risk.

If you suspect mold at work is causing you health problems, talk to your supervisor or the maintenance department about your concerns. You can also reach out to state agencies, like your local health department or labor department, or federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 117,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Do you think environmental factors like mold affect your psoriasis symptoms? What tips can you share for preventing outbreaks and maintaining healthy skin? Post your suggestions in the comments below, or start a conversation on MyPsoriasisTeam.

    Posted on May 22, 2023
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    Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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