How to Treat Psoriasis
The Most Popular Psoriasis Treatment Methods
Psoriasis is an unpleasant skin condition that occurs when skin cells are overproduced and start to form into thick, scaly plaques, and treatments for psoriasis can vary wildly, ranging from steroid creams to sunlight. The affected areas of skin can be moderately itchy, reddened patches of skin, or they can be painful lesions that crack and bleed. This frustrating skin condition has no definitive cure; people with psoriasis may not experience any symptoms for years and then suddenly be surprised by a flare-up. Though there is no way to stop psoriasis, there are many treatments that will calm symptoms, reduce the severity of outbreaks, and lessen the risk of more flare-ups occurring.
Steroid creams are one of the most commonly used topical treatments for psoriasis. They work by controlling the inflammatory responses that can otherwise trigger psoriasis symptoms, so steroid creams are very effective at lessening any itching, swelling, and redness. Depending on the severity of the psoriasis outbreak, a doctor may prescribe very strong preparations or more mild versions of a steroid based cream. Corticosteroid creams are particularly effective when they are combined with an ointment that contains calcipotriene, a compound similar to vitamin D. Unfortunately, some people find that steroid creams cause unpleasant skin reactions that are too bad to be worth the psoriasis-treating benefits.
Coal Tar Topical Preparations
Coal tar is an ingredient derived from coal and pine wood, and it is used in many ointments and shampoos for psoriasis. Coal tar slows down the growth of skin cells, so it helps to reduce the itchy scales related to psoriasis. Though it is somewhat effective, coal tar products are not regulated, so the amount of tar can vary wildly between different brands.
Though baths do not actually treat psoriasis, many psoriasis sufferers find that baths are one of the only ways to relieve the incessant itching of skin lesions. Soaking in warm water that has been mixed with Dead Sea salts, oatmeal, or Epsom salts can help to treat the itchy skin, and it can also smooth the skin by removing scales. However, this form of treatment does not have any long lasting benefits.
An ointment that contains a mild amount of salicylic acid can treat psoriasis without damaging the skin. This acid breaks up the thick scales that can build up on the skin’s surface, so salicylic creams are effective at smoothing the skin and reducing itching. However, it does not work well over large areas, because side effects can result if the body ends up absorbing too much acid.
UVA rays from either sunlight or a light box can help to soothe the lesions of psoriasis. Light therapy is often combined with psoralen, a drug that helps the body to absorb more light, but this treatment method can be somewhat risky because it increases skin cancer risks. However, for people with persistent psoriasis that does not respond well to other treatments, the benefits of light therapy may outweigh the risks.
Because psoriasis is linked to an overactive immune system, some oral medications that work as an immunosuppressant can be quite helpful. Methotrexate is one of the most effective forms of psoriasis treatment, but it is also a chemotherapy drug that can cause strong side effects. Cyclosporine is another form of immunosupressant medication that can clear up the lesions that may occur during psoriasis outbreaks. Certain biologic drugs, which are created from artificial proteins, can be combined with immunosuppressant drugs to further increase their effectiveness.