Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that usually affects people with a genetic predisposition. Although there are several types of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis is the most common one.
The symptoms can manifest anywhere on the body. They usually include inflammation, redness, thickening, and flaking of the skin. Itchiness is also common.
There are other symptoms of psoriasis too. Psoriatic fatigue is one of them. Unfortunately, it is often left out of the spotlight. The purpose of this article is to change that.
What is Psoriatic Fatigue?
Unlike tiredness, fatigue does not resolve after a good night’s sleep. It is mental and physical exhaustion in combination with a lack of energy. These are the common symptoms of psoriatic fatigue.
The feeling of exhaustion often goes hand-in-hand with sleeping problems, pain, cognitive impairment, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.
It is not uncommon for psoriatic patients to feel tired all the time. Many of them do not attribute the feeling to psoriasis. After all, many of us still think of psoriasis just in terms of its effect on our skin, forgetting that there are processes happening underneath involving inflammation and our immune system.
The truth is that fatigue is one of the potential symptoms of psoriasis. It is also a common one. However, psoriatic fatigue does not get enough attention, even from doctors.
Most symptoms of psoriasis are physically visible. So, most treatments focus solely on those physical aspects. Fatigue is invisible. Therefore, it is not proven easily. But, that does not mean it is less debilitating.
Studies show that people with psoriatic arthritis are more likely to experience fatigue. Around 30% of all psoriatic arthritis patients also suffer from fatigue. That implies a strong connection between long-term inflammatory activity and psoriatic fatigue.
When inflammation is present all the time, it starts to affect chemical processes that take place inside the body. As a result, higher quantities of potent anti-inflammatory chemicals begin to circulate. These include interleukins, anti-inflammatory proteins, and immune complexes.
The long-term effects of this can be overwhelming, and are both physically and mentally exhausting.
Causes of Psoriatic Fatigue
Scientists still cannot tell, with 100% certainty, what causes psoriatic fatigue.
Some people experience itchy flare-ups that worsen at night. This affects their quality of sleep. The same applies to joint pain caused by psoriatic arthritis.
However, such cases are rare. They do not account for all reports of psoriatic fatigue.
There must be something else that causes such a systemic feeling of tiredness. After all, most people with psoriatic fatigue do not report problems with sleep quality.
Researchers presume that the body spends a lot of energy fighting inflammatory processes.
We’ve already explained that the body produces many powerful chemicals when the immune system is overstimulated. Among them are the cell-signaling proteins called cytokines.
People with psoriatic arthritis have increased levels of cytokines. These small proteins cause an autoimmune reaction by signaling the immune system to treat healthy tissues as intruders. That results in joint inflammation and causes stiffness, pain, and swelling.
The whole process burns plenty of energy. So, it could be an explanation for the overwhelming fatigue.
Common Misconceptions about Psoriatic Fatigue
Most people have a hard time connecting a skin condition, such as psoriasis, with tiredness. That’s why many individuals affected by psoriatic fatigue carry a stigma of laziness. The lack of understanding from colleagues, friends, and family is sometimes too much to handle.
Psoriatic breakout is an inflammatory process that causes our immune system to over-respond. If you think of times when your body has fought the flu, an allergic reaction, or the common cold, you’ll probably recall some feelings of fatigue. They can lower the desire to carry out daily activities and also interfere with sleep. Psoriasis is more than skin deep – underneath there is always some immune response so no wonder some of us feel more fatigued at times.
What Contributes To Psoriatic Fatigue?
To counter the tiredness, many people with psoriasis reach out to caffeine or alcohol. The first one to get more energy. The latter one to improve sleep. However, both are a terrible choice.
Caffeine has a short energy-boosting effect that leaves you feeling more tired after it wears off. Also, it is a known diuretic. That means it causes dehydration.
The effect of alcohol is negative all the way. The initial drowsiness that helps you fall asleep leads to poor sleep, dehydration, a hangover, and more fatigue. Alcohol abuse can also result in obesity and other chronic health conditions.
Perhaps the most interesting – and most relevant – research to date on mineral and vitamin deficiencies in autoimmune and inflammatory disorders is the discovery of a mutual lack of essential nutrients (those the body cannot manufacture itself and draws from foods) to power and feed the inflamed body.
Zinc deficiency may be a factor in causes of fatigue, and dysfunctional immune systems. Incredibly, low serum zinc levels found in patients with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis have successfully been supplemented to counter the effects of fatigue, balance the immune response to flares, and improve eyesight.
Your body needs zinc to function at its best. Zinc is a useful trace element needed for hundreds of body processes and core functions, including:
- optimal cell function
- effective enzyme distribution
- healthy immune function
- maintaining sense of smell or taste
- wound healing
- supports growth and development and thus required in pregnancies and young children’s diets
An antioxidant, zinc deficiencies increase oxidative stress, are cited as key factors in poor insulin production (in diabetics), and poor immune system function overall. In addition, severe zinc deficiencies can lead to a number of related conditions that worsen symptoms of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, including:
- anemia (zinc metabolizes iron in blood)
- diarrhea (which leads to dehydration)
- skin irritations, psoriatic flares, and eczema-like eyelid rashes
- feelings of lethargy or extreme tiredness
- odd or unexpected taste sensations for regular foods
- hair loss or loss of condition in healthy hair
- poor wound healing (also a diabetic side effect)
- unexplained weight loss
Your body does not store zinc, which means you have to get enough of it from food or supplement it to avoid and prevent a deficiency.
What Can You Do About Psoriatic Fatigue?
A lack of essential minerals or vitamins results in malnutrition. This occurs when your body does not get enough to eat in one sitting, or is not getting enough of the right foods, or is unable to use the nutrients derived from those foods. Malnutrition is also considered a leading cause of fatigue.
The most important thing to do is see a doctor and rule out all other potential causes of fatigue. These include other diseases and medications.
Regardless of the origins of fatigue, many dietary and lifestyle changes can help you feel less tired and improve your quality of life as a result.
- Introduce more fresh vegetables and fruits to your diet
- Avoid fatty foods
- Eliminate processed foods and meats
- Try to lose any excess weight you might have
- Avoid stress if possible.
- Stay as physically active as you can but leave time for rest.
- Keep a diary of your daily activities and your diet.
- Try to improve sleep quality.
The last piece of advice on this list is more valuable. Your sleep quality does not only depend on the duration of sleep. Going to bed early and getting up late can sometimes only mean more tossing and turning.
Many factors affect the quality of your sleep. These include light, noise, caffeine intake, alcohol consumption, exposure to blue light, eating late at night, etc.
Try to find a bed routine that helps you relax. Go to bed at the same time every night. Avoid watching television and using a computer, or a phone, at least one hour before sleeping. Sleep in a dark room that’s not too hot and protect yourself from all sources of noise.
These changes can result in a deeper, uninterrupted, and more energizing sleep.
Psoriatic Fatigue: The Bottom Line
The research about psoriasis shows that fatigue is often present in people suffering from this condition. It is an even more common companion of psoriatic arthritis. There is no direct connection between the severity of psoriatic fatigue and other symptoms of psoriasis. That could be why doctors frequently disregard the feeling of tiredness in psoriatic patients and focus on treating the other, more visible, symptoms.