How is psoriasis treated?

There are many treatments for psoriasis. Your healthcare provider will select a treatment plan depending on the seriousness of the rash, where it is on your body, your age, health, and other factors. For a limited disease affecting only few areas on the skin, topical creams or ointments may be all that is needed. When larger areas are involved, or joint pain indicating arthritis is suspected, additional therapy may be needed.

Common treatments include:

  • Steroid creams
  • Moisturizers (to relieve dry skin)
  • Anthralin (a medicine that slows skin cell production)
  • Coal tar (common for scalp psoriasis; may also be used with light therapy for severe cases; available in lotions, shampoos and bath solutions)
  • Vitamin D3 ointment
  • Vitamin A or “retinoid” creams

Treatment for severe cases:

  • Light therapy (ultraviolet light at specific wavelengths decreases inflammation in the skin and helps to slow the production of skin cells)
  • PUVA (treatment that combines a medicine called "psoralen" with exposure to a special form of ultraviolet light)
  • Methotrexate (a medicine taken by the mouth; methotrexate can cause liver disease, so its use is limited to severe cases and is carefully watched with blood tests and sometimes liver biopsies)
  • Retinoids (a special form of Vitamin A-related drugs, retinoids can cause serious side effects, including birth defects)
  • Cyclosporine (a very effective capsule reserved for severe psoriasis because it can cause high blood pressure and damage to kidneys).

Newer drugs for treating psoriasis include injectable immune “biologic” therapies as well as small molecule immune modulating pills. They work by blocking the body's immune system from "kick-starting" an autoimmune disease such as psoriasis.

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