About 7 million Americans have psoriasis, a condition characterized by thick, red, scaly patches on the skin that sometimes itch and bleed.
Some patients also develop the related condition psoriatic arthritis, which, like other forms of arthritis, involves joint tenderness, stiffness, pain, and swelling, according to dermatologist Alan Menter, MD, who led the team that developed the new guidelines.
Menter directs the residency program at Baylor University Medical School in Dallas and is past president of the International Psoriasis Council.
“Between one in six and one in eight people with psoriasis will develop fairly destructive joint disease,” he tells WebMD. “But by initiating [drug] treatment early, we can stop it in its tracks.”
Psoriasis is generally considered mild when less than 5% of the body is involved and severe when the scaly patches cover 10% or more of the skin.
Mild psoriasis is most often treated with topical creams and ointments and, possibly targeted light therapy. Drugs like methotrexate and the biologics Amevive, Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, Simponi, and Stelara tend to be reserved for patients whose psoriasis is considered severe.
But Menter says doctors need to consider factors other than how much of the body is affected when deciding on a treatment.
Patients with lesions on their hands, feet, face, or genitals may be candidates for drug treatment even if their psoriasis is limited because quality of life is so profoundly affected, he says.
“Physicians and patients need to recognize that the impact of psoriasis both physically and emotionally may change the treatment paradigm,” he says.