Psoriasis and Other Runner’s Skin Disorders, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

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Our skin is our first and best line of defense against a myriad of harmful bacteria and diseases. Our skins breathe and contain protective oils while also enhancing our aesthetic appeal to other people.

If you encounter any breakdown of your skin functionality this will lead to more problems.

This article will give you a valuable insightful understanding of what you should do if you feel you are having skin problems.

Are you having trouble with your skin?

Apparently, researchers have confirmed that running can have an adverse impact on skin elasticity. Despite being touted as one of the most effective ways of maintaining good health, this traditional exercise can often aggravate a myriad of skin conditions such as psoriasis.

Some medical experts believe that strenuous running and hardcore cardio related exercises can cause free-radical damage to your skin. It means that seasoned runners often suffer from broken skin fibers like collagen and elastin, thus having the look of a runner’s face.

However, it is not to say that running is a bad thing, there are just instances where it could exacerbate symptoms of a particular skin condition. Runners that have psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis often have trouble with their daily routine because apart from external factors, excessive sweating often leads to rashes and other skin dermatitides.

Learning more about triggers that cause a runner’s skin to display symptoms of certain conditions is necessary to prevent it from happening. Educating yourself with the knowledge to prevent these from occurring is better than buying hundreds of dollars of prescription ointments and medicine. Taking a famous axiom from a famous American icon might just ring a bell for people who are wary of having these skin anomalies. In this case, Benjamin Franklin might have been right in saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Runner’s Skin Conditions

An athletes’ skin can often be irritated or clogged by a variety of external factors. These influences can cause symptoms like redness and swelling of the skin, other sensations like burning and itching can also happen in a runner’s daily routine. However, aside from these factors many of them also suffer from chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis or commonly known as eczema.

It is crucial for athletes to be aware of their skin, most especially for those who have certain skin conditions. To better understand these maladies, it is also important to know the basic functions of our skin.

The skin is our body’s largest body part, and it has many essential roles like the following:

  • It holds body fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Keeps harmful microbes to prevent infections
  • Helps us feel things like heat and pain
  • Evens our body’s temperature
  • Produces vitamin D from the sun

Running and skin related irritations

In the course of running, external factors such as pollution and sudden changes of temperature may cause irritation to our skin. In many cases, most runners develop common skin ailments that are treatable with certain creams and ointments. The most common conditions include:

Skin Dryness can occur through a combination of factors such as lack of hydration and extreme heat. Running in extreme weather can also aggravate its effects, most especially if you are running against chilly winds that can suck moisture out of your skin.

Acne holds the title of the most common skin condition for the general population in all age groups. It usually starts during puberty when human hormones are at high, but the cause of pimples is very rudimentary in nature. Excess sweat combined with external factors such as dust can block and clog pores that cause breakouts in areas like the face and the back. These circumstances are most prevalent in runners, especially in an urban environment.

Inflammatory skin conditions can happen to everyone, but a flush from a hard run can aggravate existing skin conditions like rosacea, miliaria, and psoriasis. Furthermore, blood that’s rushing to a runner’s body can cause inflammation of the skin; the most common example is sweat rashes.

Sun damage is also common among runners and athletes, extended periods in the sun can cause premature aging, loss of elasticity and the onset of skin cancer or melanoma. Amateur and professional athletes have accepted it as a price of staying outdoors, but the most common mistake they usually commit is not applying sunscreen to protect their skin from harmful UV rays.

Chafing arises when your skin is rubbing against fabric or the skin itself; the friction causes redness and irritation in some parts of the skin especially in areas where there is maximum contact. Although the irritation can vary from each athlete, wearing tight clothes can drastically increase its occurrence. Areas like the inner thighs, upper inner arms, and the nipples are prone to chaffing, applying Vaseline to these areas can reduce chances of irritating the skin.

Like chafing, blisters can also occur when there is excess rubbing of the skin, especially on the feet for extended periods of time. Loosely fit shoes, and bad running socks can contribute to this type of skin irritation. Medical experts urge individuals to avoid popping the irritated spot, if you cannot resist the urge to do so, a sterilized needle or safety pin can be used to puncture the blister. Do not pick at the skin or open up the blister to prevent infection.

Chronic Skin Conditions

Aside from the common skin issues that come with running, some runners often suffer from different chronic skin ailments. Typically, they are not treatable but are manageable by drugs and changes in lifestyle. In most cases having these conditions can affect your daily running routine, individuals that suffer from these infirmities must always check their skin to prevent a future breakout.

Although there are many different skin disorders, amongst athletes and the general population, the most common chronic skin conditions are the following:

  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Dermatomyositis

Eczema is a term used for a variation of skin conditions that cause skin inflammation and irritation. The most common type of this malady is known as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema; the term atopic applies to a group of diseases that often inherits a tendency to form other allergic conditions like as asthma and hay fever.

According to statistics, eczema affects about 10 to 20 percent of infants and about 3 percent of grownups and kids in the U.S. Infants that develop the condition usually become free of its symptoms by the age of 10. Often, its symptoms can be on and off, in the case runners, strenuous exercise and the external factors such as pollution can cause its appearance.

Psoriasis is a hereditary skin disorder that affects many people. Its most common symptoms include thick red bumpy patches that are covered up with silvery scales. These spots can pop up anywhere, and the most common places include the scalp, elbows, knees and the lower back.

Although it is not a communicable skin disease, families that have a long history of psoriasis are likely to acquire the condition. It often occurs during adulthood when stress is at a high, but cases among children are also possible. In its most severe form, the patches can cover vast areas of the body and can induce psoriatic arthritis.

Rosacea is a skin disorder that mainly affects an individual’s face. It causes redness on different parts of the face like the chin, cheeks, forehead and the nose. Over time, its appearance can become more intense, making a face look ruddier that makes the blood vessels visible.

Some individuals also suffer from rosacea that appears on the chest, back and neck. Other complications include watery, irritated eyes that appear inflamed. People with rosacea can also develop solid red bumps and pus-filled blisters. In severe cases, the disorder can cause rhinophyma, a condition that makes the nose appear bulbous and swollen.

Dermatomyositis is a rare inflammatory ailment that causes skin rash, muscle weakness, and inflamed muscles. Like psoriasis, it is an autoimmune disorder that is aggravated by a variety of symptoms.  It can affect both kids and grownups; this ailment has no cure but can be managed by prescription medicine and ointments.

Chronic Skin Disorders Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors

Most of these skin diseases have common symptoms, irritation and the appearance of rashes prevalent in the mentioned disorders. However, diagnosing these diseases can be tricky and may cause confusion to the average Joe. It is important to note these symptoms and differentiate them for future reference.

Eczema

Symptoms of this skin disorder include an itchy rash that appears on the face, wrists, hands, back of the knees and feet. The affected areas often develop dry and thick scaly spots. These areas may appear flush at first, but over time these patches turn brown.

The exact source of this skin disorder is still unknown, but researchers have linked its manifestation to an overcharged response by the body’s immune system to an internal or external irritant. This reaction causes the symptoms of eczema.

In some cases, some people are more susceptible to developing the symptoms of these chronic skin conditions. Athletes should constantly be on the lookout for risk factors that aggravate some of these infirmities.

Families that have had a history of allergies or asthma have a higher risk for this skin condition. Furthermore, Flare-ups or breakouts may occur in response to certain substances or conditions:

  • Touching rough, and course materials
  • Weather/Temperature changes
  • Exposure to soap and detergents
  • Contact with animals
  • Upper Respiratory infections or colds
  • Stress
Risk Factors

Individuals that have higher chances of developing this disease aside from a personal or family history of eczema include:

  • History of asthma or hay fever
  • People living in urban areas
  • African-American lineage
  • History of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)

Psoriasis

This skin malady often starts as small red bumps, which grow bigger to form scales. Often these spots can become itchy and later on become cracked and sore. Other forms of this psoriasis can affect the nails and may form pits that cause them to break and become loose. The skin often looks thick but picking it off may cause easily cause bleeding.

Up until now, the disorder is still a mystery for many people, but medical experts believe that its caused by a combination of things. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation that triggers new skin cells to form to in an abnormal rate. Normally, skin cells are substituted every 10 to 30 days, people that suffer from psoriasis grow them in 3 to 4 days.

The build-up of new old skin cells causes silver scales. Doctors believe triggers for the flare-ups are the following:

  • Cuts, scrapes or surgical wounds
  • Emotional Stress
  • Obesity
  • Strep Infections
Risk Factors

This skin infirmity can happen to anyone, but some factors can increase its occurrence. Having a family history of this disease can significantly make an individual susceptible to psoriasis. There are also other factors that aggravate psoriasis, but these are the most common triggers:

  • Having HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

Rosacea

The appearance of this skin condition can significantly vary for different individuals. In some cases, its potential signs and symptoms do not appear. However, distinct symptoms often characterize initial signs of rosacea. The following include:

  • Flushing
  • Persistent redness of the skin
  • Bumps and acne
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Burning or stinging sensations
  • Facial Swelling

The cause of rosacea is still not understood, but different theories suggest that it may be a part of a more generalized disorder of blood vessels. Other theories have also suggested that its caused by microscopic mites, fungus, and other physiological factors.

Risk Factors

This condition can affect the general population, but some profiles are at risk for this clear and common condition. While it is likely to hit people that are over 30 years old, most especially women, risk factors for Rosacea include:

  • Individuals that have fair skin
  • Family history of Rosacea
  • Northern European Ancestry

Dermatomyositis

Although it is a rare condition, people that have dermatomyositis often suffer from muscle weakness that worsens on each passing week. In the onset of this skin disease, a distinct patchy and bluish-purple rash starts to develop on parts of the face, chest, and elbows. It can also occur in different regions of the body associated with muscle weakness that is evident on both sides of a person’s body. Other symptoms include:

  • Muscle pain and tenderness
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Fatigue
  • Onset of lung problems
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Fever

The exact cause of this ailment is still unknown, but medical experts have linked it to several autoimmune diseases like psoriasis. Like the mentioned skin malady, a compromised immune system usually leads to the development of dermatomyositis.

Risk Factors

There is still no substantial evidence to link this skin condition to some risk factors. However, Dermatomyositis is common among children than adults between the ages of 40 and 60 and affects more women than men.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Eczema

Doctors still have no particular test that diagnoses the presence of this medical condition. The discovery of this infirmity often bases on an individual’s medical history and its recurring symptoms. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema) has no cure, but its symptoms are controllable through a series of prevention strategies and a variety of medications.

Treatment

Most patients that suffer from this disorder experience relief as they get older but external factors can cause exacerbations. Once an individual has a definite diagnosis, treatment for its manifestations depend on the following factors:

  • Type and severity
  • Age, Health, and medical history
  • History of previous eczema treatment

After the consideration of these determinants, treatment comprises of the following:

  • Avoidance of irritants such as solvents and detergents
  • Management of emotional stress
  • Use of emollients to moisturize skin
  • Use of topical steroids creams like tacrolimus
  • Taking oral antihistamines
  • Taking Immunosuppressive drugs at the discretion of an attending physician (has severe side effects)
  • Ultraviolet light therapy (phototherapy)

Psoriasis

Amongst the listed chronic disorders, psoriasis ranks as the most common and most prevalent skin related condition in the world. Diagnosing the disease can be tricky, but taking a biopsy from a plaque can confirm the infirmity.

People with certain ailments have a higher chance of getting psoriasis; these include individuals that have the following medical conditions:

Treatment

The management of psoriasis depends on a person. Physicians will always determine the best course of action, this skin condition is noncurable, but its existence is controllable through medications and lifestyle changes. As a chronic condition, people that have this ailment must always be wary of psoriatic triggers such as:

  • Stress
  • Tobacco use
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Medications (some exacerbate symptoms of psoriasis)

Depending on the prognosis, here are some recommended treatments:

  • Topical therapies
  • Topical corticosteroids
  • Vitamin D analogs
  • Calcineurin inhibitors
  • Tazarotene
  • Dithranol
  • Salicylic acid
  • Emollients
  • PUVA photochemotherapy
  • Phototherapy
  • Systemic therapy
  • Cyclosporine
  • Methotrexate
  • Acitretin
  • Biologic agents
  • T cell modulators
  • IL-12/IL-23 inhibitors

Application of topical treatments (applied to the surface of the skin) such as creams and ointments mitigate psoriatic spots and patches. The medication treats smaller areas and is most effective in dealing mild to moderate psoriasis.

Topical corticosteroids suppress the immune system’s activity to lessen psoriatic scales. Physicians opt for this medication for the treatment of plaque and scalp psoriasis. Moreover, the corticosteroids are available in ranging strengths depending on the severity of the plaques and patches.

Vitamin D analogs such as calcipotriene, calcipotriol, and calcitriol slow down the rapid growth of skin tissue to prevent scaling. These drugs take longer to work compared to topical corticosteroids but are more efficient for long-term treatment. It works well with a combination of treatments like phototherapy. The most common side effect of this medication is skin irritation.

Calcineurin inhibitors halt the reproduction of inflammatory compounds that cause psoriasis to develop. Also, they are an effective remedy for mild and facial psoriasis. Its common side effects include burning and itching of the skin.

Tazarotene is a topical retinoid that decreases skin overgrowth and inflammation. Also, this topical medication is very effective with the combination topical corticosteroids. Skin irritation and heightened responsiveness to sunlight are one of its likely side effects.

Dithranol is a traditional treatment for psoriasis, but it is done less nowadays because it can stain skin and clothing. As with other medication, combining it with other treatments raises its effectiveness.

Salicylic acid softens and lifts of psoriatic scales, coupled with a topical steroid it is efficient in limiting mild psoriasis.

Emollients nourish our skin with hydration and are effective when combined with other treatments. Applying this method can reduce scaling and decrease the itching associated with psoriatic spots and patches.

Coal tar is a traditional treatment used to lessen the symptoms of psoriasis. This procedure has been around for many decades. It comes in numerous forms such as soap, shampoos, and ointments. Although other people experience relief while using coal tar, other individuals complain of skin irritation aside from its disgusting smell.

New Methods of Treatment

Phototherapy is one of the best treatment methods for psoriasis. It involves exposure to UV or ultraviolet light to control the rapid growth of skin cells. Moreover, it uses narrow band UV-B to control psoriatic symptoms and can give 3 to 6 months of relief.

Cyclosporine represses the activity of immune cells to stop signs of pustular and nail psoriasis. This medication can instantly stop the manifestations of psoriasis for extended periods. Known side effects include high blood pressure and kidney toxicity. Doctors often prescribe this medicine for women that want to get pregnant.

Methotrexate is commonly used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis and is helpful in controlling its symptoms with a combination of other treatments. However, this medication is not safe for pregnant women and men taking this medicine should take folic acid supplements because it aggravates some liver ailments. Individuals that have a history of liver diseases are prohibited to take this drug.

Acitretin is a medicine that represses immune dysfunction causing psoriasis. Biological agents are new treatments that target specific chemicals and enzymes that are responsible for the growth of psoriasis. They are more efficient and take fewer side-effects than the mentioned medications, but they cost a lot more compared to traditional treatments.

Rosacea

Although diagnosing this skin disorder is tricky, most often doctors often rely on the history of its symptoms and a physical inspection of an individual’s skin. In many cases, doctors do additional tests to rule out other conditions with the same signs such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and other forms of acne.

Treatment 

Treating rosacea focuses on controlling its related symptoms, in many instances, it requires a combination of skin care and medicine treatments. The extent of the treatment hinge on the type and the severity of the skin infirmity. Medications include:

  • Brimonidine
  • Azelaic acid and metronidazole
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Isotretinoin
  • Laser therapy

Brimonidine is an active drug that reduces redness in parts of the skin. It can come in many forms including topical gels; it works by constricting blood vessels that cause inflammation and flushing of the skin. Furthermore, symptoms may start to alleviate within 12 hours; its effect is temporary, application to affected areas needs to on a regular basis.

Although its effects can be longer than other medications, azelaic acid and metronidazole are quite effective in controlling symptoms of rosacea for more extended periods.

Oral antibiotics reduce some types of bacteria and fight inflammation when used against this skin disorder. Most common types of antibiotics include doxycycline, tetracycline, and minocycline.

Isotretinoin is a potent oral acne drug that helps clear acne like lesions of rosacea. This medication is suitable for patients with severe manifestations and lesions. However, pregnant women are not prohibited to use the drugs due to serious congenital disabilities.

Laser therapy may also reduce the redness of inflamed blood vessels by targeting the spots and lesions on the skin.

Dermatomyositis

Diagnosing this skin condition would subject an individual to physical examinations and a run through personal medical history. Although it is easy to detect dermatomyositis because a distinct skin rash characterizes it, doctors would often employ other diagnostic tests such as:

  • MRI (to look for abnormal muscle tissue)
  • EMG (electromyography)
  • Blood analysis
  • Muscle biopsy
  • Skin biopsy

Treatment

Like other chronic skin diseases, dermatomyositis has no cure, but affected individuals may undergo several treatment methods that can alleviate its symptoms, modern methods include:

  • Corticosteroid medications
  • Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG)
  • Physical therapy
  • Antimalarial medications

Corticosteroid medications are effective in lowering the response of our immune system to inhibit the reaction of inflammation-causing antibodies. In most cases, its symptoms may subside after a treatment course with the medication, but taking high doses could have serious side effects.

Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG) uses normal immunoglobulins to block inflammation-causing antibodies. Additional treatments include physical therapy that prevents muscle loss and antimalarial drugs that suppress persistent rashes.

Prevention

Although many of these conditions require expensive treatment methods, there are simple ways to keep them from developing. Moreover, there are simple routines to counter symptoms of common and chronic skin conditions.

1. Gently treating your skin

Your daily washing and cleansing routine could take on toll on your skin if you are using strong soap and shampoos. These bath products remove oils from your skin, making them dry and flaky. To keep it gentle always opt for mild cleansers and soap and avoid long showers.

Shaving can also harm your skin due to friction, to protect your skin from irritation, apply shaving cream or lotion before shaving. Always opt for a new and sharp razor to maximize the cut and prevent skin abrasions.

Also, pat dry your skin to retain moisture and always use moisturizer to avoid skin dehydration.

2. Protect yourself from the sun

It is apparently one of the most taken for granted part of skin care, although there as studies that suggest that sun exposure has many healthy benefits, overexposure to ultraviolet rays can cause rapid skin aging and increase the risk of melanoma or skin cancer.

As a precaution doctors suggest that athletes at least use an SPF 15 sunscreen whenever you decide to run on a sunny day. For the general population, applying sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. If you forgot to put on sunscreen, medical experts suggest that covering the skin with protective clothing and wearing a hat can mitigate symptoms of common skin conditions.

3. Always eat healthily

Although we can sometimes splurge on fatty and unhealthy food, maintaining a wholesome and proper diet decreases the risk of acquiring different skin conditions. Also, it keeps our cholesterol down to promote a healthy heart. Food that’s abundant in vitamin C can lead to a younger looking skin.

4. Don’t smoke

It is not just bad for the skin, but it also has adverse effects on the human body. Smoking makes the skin look older and narrows tiny blood vessels in the skin’s outermost layers that cause decreased blood circulation. It depletes our skin of oxygen and essential nutrients. Smoking is also a common trigger for chronic conditions like psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

Smoking also damages collagen and elastin, essential fibers that give the skin its toughness and flexibility. Quitting is the best way of action if you want to have healthy glowing skin.

Although certain skin conditions are not curable like genetic disorders and other issues due to underlying diseases, it is reasonable to avoid them by maintaining proper hygiene and avoiding its common triggers.

5. Manage stress

Stress is a common trigger for many chronic diseases. It can worsen many skin disorders and can start many of its manifestations. Having a healthy mental and emotional strengthens our immune system.
Manage your stress and make time to do the things you enjoy, it will have many benefits in the long run.

Steps in preventing infectious skin disorders

  1. Washing your hands with soap and warm water after outdoor excursions
  2. Avoid sharing of eating utensils and drinking glasses in the public
  3. Avoiding direct contact with people that have infectious diseases
  4. Always be wary of public utilities such as gym equipment
  5. Don’t share personal items such as hairbrushes
  6. Sleep for at least 7 hours a daily
  7. Drink plenty of water for hydration
  8. Avoid excessive physical stress and emotional stress
  9. Maintain a nutritious diet
  10. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake
  11. Get vaccinated for skin conditions like chicken pox

How to prevent chronic skin conditions

  1. Wash your skin with a gentle cleanser every day
  2. Apply skin moisturizers to prevent dry skin
  3. Avoid environmental and dietary allergens and triggers
  4. Sleep for at least seven hours daily
  5. Drink plenty of water
  6. Eat a healthy diet
  7. Avoid stress
  8. Avoid extreme changes in weather and temperature
  9. Stop smoking
  10. Avoid excessive alcohol intake
  11. Exercise in moderation

Conclusion

Running offers many benefits, but too much exposure to external irritants and triggers might cause irritation to our skin. Taking care of our skin needs to be a number one priority, disregarding proper hygiene and appropriate methods of hydrating our skin can have many detrimental effects. In many cases, these might even aggravate some skin disorders and their related symptoms. Treatment for these maladies may cost up to thousands of dollars if they become severe.

Taking care of our skin does not need to be complicated, as runners hydration is critical in preserving one of our body’s most vital organs. Moreover, the best cure to prevent these infirmities includes a proper diet and avoiding triggers like smoking and excessive intake of liquor.

Disclaimer

This article aims to educate individuals on various skin disorders associated with runners. Consequently, information on the article does not count as medical advice, sources listed below are written by health professionals for various online publications. It is always best to consult a doctor.

Sources

  1. Staff Writer, Psoriasis, Jul 06, 2018
  2. Staff Writer, Riskfactors Rosacea, Apr 01, 2015
  3. Staff Writer, About psoriasis, May 19, 2017
  4. American Academy of Dermatology, Atopic dermatitis: Possible complications, May 19, 2017
  5. Bamford JTM,et al, Oral evening primrose oil and borage oil for eczema , May 19, 2017
  6. Staff Writer, Psoriasis: Overview, Jul 31, 2013
  7. Mayo Clinic Staff, Psoriasis, Jun 17, 2015
  8. Goldsmith LA, et al, Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, May 19, 2017
  9. Jadotte YT, et al., Complementary and alternative medicine treatments for atopic eczema, May 19, 2017
  10. Staff Writer, Drugs that suppress or modify the immune system for dermatomyositis and polymyositis, Aug 22, 2011