Thanks to recent breakthroughs in psoriasis research, that’s ancient history. New biologic therapies are highly effective for treating psoriasis, although they’re expensive and carry some risk. Other new psoriasis treatments are also close to FDA approval, bringing hope to millions of psoriasis sufferers.
Treatment can't cure your psoriasis, but it can relieve symptoms for a while. And you don't have just one or two options. There are many ways to treat it, and you can combine some methods. 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’re willing to do
Research in psoriasis doesn’t make headlines -- or win funding -- like discoveries in cancer or heart disease. Also, psoriasis research is hamstrung by the uniqueness of human skin: Unlike in other diseases, experiments on mice or other animals aren’t very helpful.
In recent years, though, psoriasis research funding by the National Institutes of Health has doubled. More broadly, research into other autoimmune diseases has yielded new knowledge about the immune system. It turns out some of the problems in other autoimmune illnesses are active in psoriasis, as well.
This greater understanding of immune system diseases has brought new treatments, targeted at specific aspects of the immune system. Called biologic agents, these drugs have launched a new era of treatment for psoriasis.
Biologic Agents as Psoriasis Treatment
Biologic agents are medicines made from substances found in living organisms. These lab-manufactured proteins or antibodies are injected into the skin or bloodstream. Once inside the body, the drug blocks some part of the altered immune system that contributes to psoriasis.
In general, biologic agents improve psoriasis by:
Suppressing T-cells (a form of white blood cell) directly
Blocking a substance called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), one of the main messenger chemicals in the immune system
Blocking a family of the immune system’s chemical messengers called interleukins
The patches and plaques of psoriasis result from a dysfunctional interaction between skin cells and white blood cells. By interfering with TNF-alpha or T-cells, or targeting proteins called interleukins, biologic agents short-circuit the unhealthy association between the two cell types. Inflammation (redness and itch) and the overgrowth of thick, scaly skin are both reduced.