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Is Your Psoriasis Treatment Working?

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WebMD Feature

No matter what medicine you use, you want your skin to clear as much and as soon as possible.

Psoriasis treatments aren't a quick fix. Some treatments start to show results faster than others, but they all take time. Each has its own way of relieving psoriasis. And no medicines will make it vanish forever.

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The Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis

The signs and symptoms of psoriasis vary depending on the type you have. Some common signs for plaque psoriasis -- the most common type of psoriasis -- include: Plaques of red, inflamed skin, often covered with loose, silver-colored scales. These plaques may be itchy and painful and sometimes crack and bleed. In severe cases, the plaques will grow and merge into one another, covering large areas. Disorders of the fingernails and toenails, including discoloration and pitting of the nails....

Read the The Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis article > >

Whether a treatment is "working" can mean something different to each person. With your doctor's help and some patience, you should be able to find a treatment that you're comfortable with.

Set Reasonable Goals

Whether you're happy with a treatment depends a lot on your expectations. Some people may want a psoriasis treatment to totally clear up their skin. Others are thrilled if the redness fades or their skin is less itchy.

The first treatment you try may not be the solution. "It's trial and error," says Jenny Murase, MD, assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. "We're just testing it to see how [the psoriasis] responds."

Your doctor may have to mix different treatments to improve your skin.

"For a treatment to be working, it has to work to the satisfaction of the patient," says Mark Lebwohl, MD. He's the chairman of the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board.

How Long Does It Take?

There's no hard and fast rule about when your skin will get better. On average, psoriasis drugs take about 3 months to start showing results. Other treatments may be a little faster.

  • Acitretin: 2 to 4 months, but it may take up to 6 months to reach its peak effect
  • Biologics: 2 to 3 months or longer
  • Cyclosporine: 3 to 4 months
  • Goeckerman treatment (coal tar plus light therapy): 3 to 4 weeks
  • Methotrexate: 3 to 6 weeks, although you may not see real clearing for up to 6 months
  • Phototherapy: 2 1/2 to 3 months

Give your treatment enough time to work.

If you've been waiting for a few months and still don't see a change, talk with your doctor. You may need to try something else.

Side Effects

Some treatment side effects are mild, like skin redness or peeling. Others can be serious, including the chance of infections. Stronger medicines and larger doses may help control your psoriasis better, but they can cause more side effects.

"There's always a balance between the safety of treatments and the effectiveness of treatments," Lebwohl says.

Sometimes side effects can make you want to stop taking a drug. You and your doctor have to decide whether the result of any treatment is worth the risks.

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