Can having a pet help you manage your life with psoriasis? Furry friends have some surprising benefits for your health. Find out why pet ownership is good for your body and soul.
Dogs need daily walks, so their owners get regular physical activity too. Psoriasis increases your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But exercise lowers that risk and helps you manage your weight. Staying at a healthy weight actually helps prevent psoriasis flare-ups.
Just being around any type of animal can reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body. Stress is a common trigger for psoriasis flares. It's thought to lead to inflammation in your body. When you relax, your psoriasis symptoms often improve.
Psoriasis can hurt your self-esteem when skin outbreaks make you feel less attractive. How can pets help? Research shows that pet owners have higher self-esteem than petless people. One study even found that dog owners were seen as more attractive on the dating scene.
Having a pet can actually lower your blood pressure, even in times of stress. High blood pressure is common in people with psoriasis. And outbreaks tend to be worse when you have both conditions. Some studies have shown that pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure than people without pets -- even when their body mass indexes (BMIs) are similar.
Each time you take your dog for a walk, it's a chance to get some sun on your skin. Gradual, regular sun exposure can improve scaly psoriasis. The sun's UVB rays help clear patches of psoriasis, as long as they aren't too thick. But on long walks, cover up or apply sunscreen. A sunburn could make your psoriasis worse.
The pain and itching of psoriasis can wreak havoc on your sleep. But sleeping with a pet in the room could help you snooze. One study showed that people whose dog snoozed nearby had better-quality sleep -- as long as the pooch wasn't on the bed with them.
Psoriasis and depression often are linked. Skin outbreaks can affect your social and sex lives and bring down your mood. And the inflammation that causes psoriasis flares also plays a role in depression. Pet ownership helps you fight depression. Your pet provides constant companionship, adds structure to your day, and gives you a sense of purpose.
Psoriasis causes inflammation in your body that doesn't just affect your skin, but your blood vessels, too. That's why psoriasis raises your risk of stroke. But pet ownership is linked to a lower risk of stroke. In fact, owning a cat appears to cut your stroke risk by more than a third. One theory is that the stress relief from petting a cat helps protect you.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- Carlina Teteris / Getty Images
- monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
- Dr. Microbe / Getty Images
- Jamie Grill / Getty Images
- miodrag ignjatovic / Getty Images
- fhm / Getty Images
- Cavan Images / Getty Images
- Rebecca Smith / Getty Images
- 100 / Getty Images
- Animal Health Foundation: "8 Health Benefits of Having a Pet."
- National Psoriasis Foundation: "Life With Psoriasis," "Complementary and Integrative Medicine," "Related Conditions of Psoriasis."
- American Academy of Dermatology: "Healthy Diet and Other Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve Psoriasis," "Does Treating Psoriasis Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke?"
- International Journal of Dermatology: "The associations between psychological stress and psoriasis: a systematic review."
- Mayo Clinic: "Ease stress to reduce your psoriasis flares."
- Indian Dermatology Online Journal: "Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Quality of Life in Patients With Psoriasis."
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: "Friends With Benefits: On the Positive Consequences of Pet Ownership."
- Journal of Evolutionary Psychology: "Dog ownership increases attractiveness and attenuates perceptions of short-term mating strategy in cad-like men."
- Medical Archives: "Psoriasis and High Blood Pressure."
- Circulation: "Pet Ownership and Cardiovascular Risk."
- American Kennel Club: "Want to Get Happy? Walk the Dog."
- Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: "Psoriasis and the sun."
- PLoS One: "Sleep Loss and Cytokine Levels in an Experimental Model of Psoriasis."
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: "The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment."
- Cureus: "Association Between Psoriasis and Depression: A Traditional Review."