Treatment can't cure your psoriasis, but it can relieve your symptoms for a while. And you don't have just one or two options. There are many ways to treat psoriasis, and you can combine treatments. So if one thing doesn't work, something else likely will.
You and your doctor will decide on a treatment plan based on:
- How severe your psoriasis is
- What treatments you've already used
- Whether you have other medical conditions
- How much you are willing to do
Most likely, your doctor will suggest a "1-2-3" approach. You'll start with topical creams and ointments. If they aren't enough, you might move on to light therapy. If your psoriasis still isn't under control, you might try pills or biologic drugs. Or your doctor may think a different approach will work better for you.
Psoriasis treatments include:
Creams and ointments. You buy these over the counter or with a prescription. Steroid creams and ointments are the most common. Salicylic acid helps remove scales. Other options include formulas containing vitamin D, including Dovonex and Sorilux, retinoids such as Tazorac, and tar solutions such as Psorent and Scytera. Used alone, these aren't likely to work if you have psoriasis that covers more than 10% to 20% of your skin.
Light therapy (phototherapy). Exposing your skin to the sun or other ultraviolet light can improve your symptoms. You do this at a doctor's office or with a phototherapy unit at home. Newer techniques use a laser, which can target a small area with very focused UVB light.
Oral drugs. For psoriasis that doesn't respond to other treatments, pills such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and Soriatane may help. They are usually reserved for moderate to severe psoriasis, because the side effects can be severe and need more careful watching by a doctor.
Biologic drugs. These can improve psoriasis when nothing else does. And they seem to have fewer side effects than the pills used to treat psoriasis. But most biologics work by suppressing your immune system, so serious infections and even cancer are risks, though rare. Biologics used to treat psoriasis include Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, and Stelara.
Alternative Medicine for Psoriasis
There are many alternative methods on the market that claim to treat psoriasis, including vitamins, enemas, acupuncture, shark cartilage, and emu oil. There are even spas where you can relax in a hot pool while little fish eat psoriasis plaques off your body.
You may be tempted to try one if standard treatments don't seem to help you. But keep in mind that no alternative approach has been proven to help, and some may not be safe.
Check with your doctor before you try anything. Even some herbal supplements and drugstore treatments can be risky -- more so if you use them with other treatments. Don't assume that "natural" means "safe" or trust treatments that claim to be a cure.