Psoriasis can be difficult to live with. Those with milder cases of this skin condition may hardly notice it, but when psoriasis acts up, it can interfere with your daily life. Under these circumstances, finding relief is an immediate priority. While there is no cure for psoriasis yet, there is no shortage of treatment options for this disease. But with so many options available, choosing a psoriasis treatment can be challenging. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be required for the best results. Let’s go over the available treatments for psoriasis and discuss some ways to determine which ones may be best for you.
Psoriasis treatments can be broken down into three major groups: topical medications, oral/injected drugs, and phototherapy. The various treatments within these categories are all designed with one goal in mind: to reduce psoriasis symptoms such as skin inflammation, dryness, shedding, itchiness, and redness.
Topical simply means “applied on the skin.” There are a number of ointments and creams that one can apply directly to their affected skin to reduce the discomfort caused by psoriasis. These include corticosteroids, which are recommended for mild to moderate cases of psoriasis; calcineurin inhibitors to reduce inflammation on thinner skin; vitamin D analogues and Anthralin, both of which can slow down skin cell growth; topical retinoids; and general moisturizers that keep skin from drying out too much.
More severe or stubborn cases of psoriasis may require more than a topical solution. Oral and injected drugs are designed to help fight psoriasis systemically. Among these psoriasis medication options are biologics, which directly affect the immune system; oral retinoids, which are stronger than topical retinoids and come with increased risks for some patients; Methotrexate, an oral drug that can reduce skin cell production and decrease inflammation; and Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant drug meant for short-term use only.
More commonly known as light therapy, phototherapy can treat psoriasis by providing the skin with a controlled amount of light rays naturally produced by the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can help slow down the production of skin cells to normal rates, reducing inflammation. There are different ways to approach phototherapy. If possible, doctors may recommend that patients expose the affected skin to certain amounts of natural sunlight every day. Or, UV rays can be administered artificially via broadband or narrow-band UVB phototherapy. UVA phototherapy is another option. These UV rays reach deeper into the skin, making this an option for severe psoriasis. The medication Psoralen is often given before UVA light treatment to help the rays penetrate the skin. Lastly, an excimer laser may be used to administer a focused beam of UVB radiation to affected areas of the skin.
Every treatment mentioned above represents a viable method for treating psoriasis. That said, not every option will work for every patient, and different kinds of psoriasis may warrant different responses. Additionally, each of these creams, medications, and light therapies comes with a set of potential side effects that may put some individuals at greater risk for harm. So, the best treatment for psoriasis will vary depending on one’s age, medical history, current health, lifestyle, age, and more. For instance, those who are pregnant should not use topical or oral retinoids. Those at greater risk for skin cancer should avoid UVA phototherapy and calcineurin inhibitors. And prolonged use of corticosteroids or Anthralin can eventually irritate and damage the skin.
The list of risks and side-effects goes on. Ultimately, only your doctor or dermatologist can help find the right psoriasis treatment for you by examining your particular case and going over all of the above options and more. At Southeast Dermatology Specialists, we aim to inform our patients so they can make the best decisions for their skin’s health and overall well-being. Contact us to learn more about our services and providers.