When your doctor prescribes a treatment for your psoriasis -- whether it's a topical, pill, light therapy, or injection -- your goal is to improve your condition. You want your skin to clear as much and as soon as possible.
Each psoriasis treatment works a little bit differently. Some therapies start to work faster than others. The first treatment your doctor tries may not have any effect on your psoriasis. Or it could cause side effects severe enough to make you stop taking it.
To help you find the right treatment, here are answers to some of your questions about psoriasis treatment.
What Do You Expect From Your Psoriasis Treatment?
It's important to remember that the first treatment you try may not clear up your psoriasis. Your doctor may have to mix and match different therapies to find one that works.
"It's trial and error," says Jenny Murase, MD, assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco and a practicing dermatologist with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. "We're just testing it to see how [the psoriasis] responds."
Whether you're happy with a treatment depends a lot on your expectations. "For a treatment to be working, it has to work to the satisfaction of the patient," says Mark Lebwohl, MD, Dermatology Department Chair at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and chairman of the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board.
Some people may expect a psoriasis treatment to totally clear up their skin. Others are thrilled if the redness fades or their skin is less itchy.
Is the Psoriasis Treatment Worth the Side Effects?
Like most treatments, psoriasis medicines can cause side effects. Some are mild, like skin redness or peeling. Other risks, including infections, are more serious.
Your health care provider may recommend you take a stronger dose of medicine. Stronger medicines can cause more side effects. Sometimes the side effects may be serious enough to make you stop taking the drug.
"There's always a balance between the safety of treatments and the effectiveness of treatments," Lebwohl says. You and your doctor have to decide together whether a drug is worth the risks.
How Long Until You See Results?
You can't wait for your skin to clear up, but you need to be patient. On average, psoriasis drugs take about three months to start showing results.
Some treatments start working faster than others. Here's how long you can expect to wait before seeing a difference with these psoriasis treatments:
- Cyclosporine -- 3 to 4 months
- Methotrexate -- 3 to 6 weeks (although you may not see real clearing for up to 6 months)
- Acitretin -- 2 to 4 months (it may take up to 6 months for the drug to reach its peak effect)
- Biologics -- 2 to 3 months
- Phototherapy -- 2 1/2 to 3 months
- Goeckerman treatment (coal tar plus light therapy) -- 3 to 4 weeks
If you want your psoriasis treatment to work, you need to give it time. But if you've been waiting for a few months and still haven't seen results, call your doctor. You may need to discuss another type of treatment.