Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, and Hormonal Changes linked psoriasis

Can pregnancy cause psoriasis?

During puberty and pregnancy, the body goes through many rapid changes due to the sudden influx of hormones being released throughout the body. These hormonal changes can affect growth rate, physical appearance, and even behavior. This influx of hormones is normal, but may bring about several unwanted effects, such as: increased bodily hair growth, development of body odor, oily skin, acne, mood swings, changes in appetite, and many others.

During pregnancy, hormonal changes begin soon after conception and implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterine wall. Some hormones that play an important role throughout pregnancy are human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), progesterone, and estrogen. HCG levels rise quickly during the first trimester, and its function is to signal the body to prepare itself for the newly fertilized egg. The ovaries no longer release an egg each month, and therefore there will be no menstruation for the duration of the pregnancy. Progesterone also rises during the first trimester and works by relaxing smooth muscles and plays a role in dampening the immune system, so that the developing fetus will not be targeted by the cells. Lastly, estrogen is a hormone that rises in level after the first trimester, and is important in the development of the fetus. Estrogen can cause side effects such as increase in appetite, weight gain, and skin pigmentation. However, estrogen tends to improve the health of skin, resulting in what is known as “pregnancy glow”. For women with psoriasis, becoming pregnant poses no problems to their health, and many people have reported that pregnancy actually improved their symptoms of psoriasis. This is most likely due to the high estrogen levels that occur during pregnancy. However, some medications that are prescribed for psoriasis are contraindicated for pregnancy, and should be stopped before becoming pregnant, especially retinoid-containing topical and oral medications. These can be teratogenic and cause severe malformations, developmental problems, or even miscarriage.

In puberty, both males and females experience changes in hormone levels, but at different times, rates, and types of hormones. Typically, females enter puberty at an earlier age and is more prolonged. Estrogen is the major hormone of female development. For males, the onset of puberty is later, but the hormone levels rise at a higher rate, resulting in growth spurts. The major hormone of male development is testosterone. However, it is to be noted that females and males both have estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones, but at different levels. Testosterone tends to be pro-inflammatory, while estrogen is important in maintaining the health and radiance of skin. Testosterone also speeds up metabolism, while estrogen promotes more fat and water retention. In psoriasis, both males and females are affected at equal rates. However, it is said that males then to have more severe skin lesions and other symptoms compared to females with psoriasis, but females with psoriasis tend to gain more body mass compared to males with psoriasis and people without psoriasis. These characteristics are most likely linked to the hormones that predominate in each sex.

General hormonal changes can occur throughout life. Changes in lifestyle and diet can contribute to the degree of hormonal changes. For example, diets high in cholesterol can contribute to the development of more steroidal hormones in the body, because of their similar chemical structures. Stressful lifestyles can also raise the levels of hormones released in the body, such as cortisol, which contributes to general inflammation and increase in body fat. Menopause in women causes a drastic drop in estrogen levels, which leads to osteoporosis and sagging of the skin. These changes in hormone levels can aggravate the symptoms of psoriasis, but may not be totally avoidable. Hormone replacement therapy can help level the amount of estrogen in the body, preventing excessive bone loss and adverse effects to the skin.

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