Psoriasis - Treatment Overview
Creams and ointments may be used in
combination with sunlight or
ultraviolet light (phototherapy) for moderate
psoriasis that affects less than 20% of the skin
surface (about equal to having both arms completely covered).
phototherapy (brief exposures to ultraviolet light
such as ultraviolet B light, also known as UVB), follow your doctor's
instructions carefully to avoid serious skin damage.
- UVB light therapy often improves psoriasis.
UVB treatment is usually done 3 times a week. Treatment of psoriasis with UVB
and with medicines spread on the skin, such as tar or calcipotriene, is safe
Psoralen and UVA light therapy (PUVA) combines a medicine and ultraviolet A light
(UVA) for psoriasis treatment. First, you use a medicine, called a psoralen.
You may take it as a pill, spread it on your skin as a lotion, or use it as
bath salts. The medicine makes the skin more sensitive to UVA light. Then you
walk into a chamber where your skin is exposed to UVA light. PUVA treatment usually is done for weeks before the psoriasis symptoms go away.
Treatment with UVB appears to be safer than PUVA, but it is
Medicines taken by mouth (oral)
If you have
moderate to severe
psoriasis, your doctor may recommend a medicine you
take by mouth (oral medicine), such as
cyclosporine. Oral medicines also may be used if
topical medicines and phototherapy are not controlling your psoriasis well
- For many people, methotrexate works well to control psoriasis
that has not improved after other treatments. Methotrexate also is used to
psoriatic arthritis. Methotrexate cannot be used for
women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant within 3 months. Men
whose partners are planning to become pregnant should also avoid using
- Retinoids are medicines
related to vitamin A. Acitretin is the most common oral retinoid used to treat
psoriasis. Because retinoids do not weaken the
immune system, they are sometimes used for children
and for people who have psoriasis along with other conditions such as
HIV infection.6 Retinoids
cannot be used for women who are pregnant or who are planning to become
Cyclosporine may be used as a short-term treatment for
moderate to severe psoriasis. But this medicine weakens the immune system and
so is often rotated with other medicines to treat psoriasis.
These oral medicines are usually used along with
medicated products you spread on your skin (topical treatments). They also may
be used along with exposure to ultraviolet light.
for children is reserved for severe psoriasis, because the safety of these
medicines in children has not been well tested.
In rare cases, medicine may be injected into a
skin sore or patch (plaque).