According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as many as 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis—a chronic, non-contagious skin disease that affects the life cycle of skin cells.

For most people, skin cells take about one month to move from the lowest skin layer to the outermost layer, where they die and flake off. For a person with psoriasis, the process takes only three or four days. As a result, cells build up and form thick, silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that may be painful.

If you have psoriasis, it's important to talk with your doctor about your symptoms and to follow his or her treatment recommendations. Although there is currently no cure for the disease, the following self-care tips may help to prevent flare-ups and control your symptoms.

  1. Take a daily bath. Bathing daily helps to remove scales and calm inflamed skin. Add bath oil, oiled oatmeal, or Epsom salts to the water, and soak for at least 15 minutes. Avoid hot water and harsh soaps, which can make symptoms worse. Instead, use lukewarm water and mild soaps that contain added oils and fats.
  2. Use plenty of moisturizer. Blot skin after bathing, then immediately apply a heavy, ointment-based moisturizer while skin is still moist. For extra-dry skin, oils may be preferable, since they have more staying power than creams or lotions. During cold or dry weather, apply moisturizer several times a day.
  3. Cover affected areas overnight. To help improve redness and scaling, apply an ointment-based moisturizer to skin, and cover with plastic wrap overnight. In the morning, remove the covering, and wash away the scales with a warm bath or shower.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases the risk of inverse psoriasis, which appears in skin folds, creases, and areas such as the armpits. Follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. Smart choices include salmon, soybean oil, and spinach.
  5. Apply cortisone. Apply an over-the-counter cortisone cream (0.5 percent or one percent) for a few weeks when symptoms are particularly severe.
  6. Monitor your stress levels. Stress can trigger psoriasis symptoms, so it's important for psoriasis patients to find healthy ways to manage it. Try therapy or other types of stress-management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.
  7. Find a support group. Consider joining a psoriasis support group; you may find comfort in sharing your experiences and struggles and meeting other people who face similar challenges.
  8. Use cover-ups if necessary. Concealing psoriasis beneath clothing or with cosmetic cover-up products can minimize self-consciousness. Concealing products can mask redness and psoriasis plaques. They can irritate the skin, however, and shouldn't be used on open sores, cuts, or unhealed lesions.
  9. Get educated. Do your research on psoriasis, treatment options, and possible triggers of the disease, so flare-ups can be prevented. Educate your family and friends so they can recognize, acknowledge, and support your efforts in managing the disease.
  10. Follow a doctor's recommendations. Be sure to follow the recommendations of a doctor or medical professional, and ask questions if anything is unclear.