Fluctuating hormones can have a wide range of effects on women. During periods of hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause, women may experience weight gain, mood swings, libido changes, depression and anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, and memory impairment. Changes in hormone levels can also wreak havoc on the skin. Many women, for instance, experience cystic acne around the time of their periods. For women who suffer from psoriasis, the effects of hormonal changes on the skin can be even more dramatic.
Progesterone, Estrogen, and Psoriasis
The two most important female sex hormones are progesterone and estrogen. They fluctuate throughout the month, one rising while the other falls. Psoriasis tends to improve when estrogen levels are at their highest—usually around the middle of a monthly cycle—while it can worsen when progesterone levels are higher. Topical medications, oral steroids, ultraviolet light therapy, and moisturizers can all be effective treatments that will help to minimize spikes in psoriasis.
Unpredictable Changes During Pregnancy
It is very difficult to predict how pregnancy will affect a woman with psoriasis. Many women experience heightened symptoms during the pregnancy or soon after childbirth, while others experience no change in the condition of their skin or see improvements in psoriasis symptoms during parts of the pregnancy. It is interesting to note that women tend to have the same experiences over multiple pregnancies. That is, if their psoriasis improves during the first pregnancy, it likely will improve during subsequent pregnancies as well. Since many medications for psoriasis are unsafe for use during pregnancy, it’s important for patients to discuss safe options with their physicians.
Effects of Menopause
Psoriasis often peaks during puberty and menopause. The changes during menopause are thought to be a result of decreasing hormone levels, particularly estrogen. Although the impact of psoriasis is clearly tied in with these changes, there is little evidence that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is effective as a treatment. Managing stress levels can be an important factor in helping to keep psoriasis at bay.