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Topical Treatments for Psoriasis

Choosing a Topical continued...

Make sure you follow your doctor's directions. Over-using the medicine can lead to more serious health problems.

Sometimes, steroids work better when used along with other medications.

Vitamin D creams, lotions, foams, and solutions like calcipotriene (Calcitrene, Dovonex, Sorilux) slow the growth of your skin cells. For long-term use, these products may be safer for you than steroids, but they can irritate your skin.

Your doctor will probably suggest you use small amounts twice a day. Be careful not to get it on your healthy skin.

Some of these medications can make you sick if you swallow them, so keep them away from children and pets. And make sure your doctor knows what other medicines you're taking. Some can stop vitamin D products from working.

Your doctor may suggest you use vitamin D together with a steroid. One medication is a combination of both. It's called Taclonex (calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate).

Retinoids, like tazarotene (Tazorac),can help speed up the growth and shedding of skin cells. These gels or creams have vitamin A and come in different strengths.

Typically you apply a small dab to each lesion once a day before bed.

Doctors usually suggest women who are pregnant or who might become pregnant not use these products.

Anthralin slows the growth of skin cells and lowers inflammation. It doesn't have any serious side effects, but it can irritate the skin and stain clothing, sheets, and skin. It's often used with other medications.

Pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic) can help stop swelling (inflammation). Your doctor may call these drugs "calcineurin inhibitors." They're sometimes used to treat psoriasis when other medications don't work.

Talk to your doctor before taking these medications, and read the FDA black box warning on the label. There may be a link between these drugs and lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) and skin cancer.

When to Change Things Up

These treatments work well for many people, but they aren’t a sure bet. Don't be surprised if something that was working stops -- or if something that’s never helped before starts to do some good. Let your doctor know what makes a difference and what doesn’t. Together, you can choose the right products.

Many topical treatments can irritate your skin, so over time, your doctor may suggest that you cycle through different types of creams. You may also use them along with other types of treatments, like phototherapy or medications you take by mouth or inject.

Before you start using topical treatments, make sure you understand the directions and the side effects they can cause. Stick with your treatment plan, too. If you don't use your medication regularly, your psoriasis could get worse.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on November 15, 2015
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