An Overview of the Treatments Available for People With Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a skin condition without a known cure, but there are many types of medication for psoriasis that can soothe symptoms and lessen the severity of an outbreak. This skin disorder occurs when skin cells grow at an abnormally fast rate. They result in red plaques of skin covered in silver scales, and these lesions cause itching, pain, bleeding, and irritation. There are many different psoriasis treatments that have varying levels of effectiveness.
Often, psoriasis sufferers choose not to use any sort of medication or other treatment. Instead, they manage their condition by making lifestyle changes. Regular moisturizing with oily lotions and avoiding hot showers that dry out the skin is the first line of defense against psoriasis. Avoiding sweating and smoking cigarettes also helps the skin condition, and cutting back on alcohol, sugar, flour, and caffeine may be beneficial. Though all of these methods reduce the symptoms of psoriasis, medication for psoriasis is more effective.
Most psoriasis treatments come in the form of ointments that are spread along the affected areas of skin. Steroid-based creams are the most common form of psoriasis treatment, because these creams prevent the overproduction of skin cells. They also lessen inflammation and reduce itching, but they do come with some side effects. There is a limited amount of evidence that has found corticosteroid creams work best when combined with cream containing calcipotriene, a form of Vitamin D. Ointments that contain salicylic acid can also help to make the skin smoother, because this mild form of acid causes the psoriatic scales to shed. Other creams that may provide some benefits are retinoid creams, which contain vitamin A, and creams made with coal tar.
Since psoriasis is related to issues with the immune system, some medications that affect the immune system can be tried. Methotrexate has been shown to clear up psoriasis lesions, but this medication has many side effects and is also used as a chemotherapy drug. There are already creams that contain these vitamins, but supplements for vitamin A and vitamin D can also help people suffering with psoriasis. Fish oil may be another nutritional supplement that can lessen symptoms. Some types of oral medications, which are called biologics, are made from animal proteins, and these can control the overactive immune response that causes psoriasis. Though biologic drugs like etanercept, ustekinumab, and adalimumab all work very well, they are too expensive for most people to afford.
Light therapy is one of the most effective non-medical forms of treatment for psoriasis. Most people with psoriasis benefit from some time spent in the sunlight, but for people with extreme symptoms, doctors may recommend an intensive form of light therapy called PUVA. In this treatment, a compound called psoralen is applied to the skin, and then ultraviolet light rays are directed onto the skin with a light box. Though this is effective, there is a risk of developing skin cancer.
Many people who have psoriasis do not want to risk the side effects of medication, so they choose to try alternative remedies. Though there is no scientific evidence to support the theory that gluten is problematic, some people with psoriasis find relief from a gluten free diet. Soaking in a bath solution with sea salt or oatmeal can remove scales and lessen itching, but it does not improve the overall condition of the skin. One medical study found that creams containing capsaicin, the spicy ingredient in peppers, can help to lessen itching and improve skin lesions, but there still is not a lot of research on the subject.