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Topical Treatments for Psoriasis

Choosing a Topical continued...

Make sure you follow your doctor's directions. Overuse can lead to more serious health problems.

Sometimes, steroids work better when used in combination with other medications.

Vitamin D creams, lotions, and solutions, like Dovonex (calcipotriene), slow down 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.

If swallowed, some of these medications can make you sick, 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 Tazorac (tazarotene),can help stop 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, sold under the brand name Drithocreme and others, slows the growth of skin cells and reduces 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.

Protopic (tacrolimus) and Elidel (pimecrolimus) 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. There may be a link between these drugs and lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) and skin cancer.

Limitations of Topical Psoriasis Treatments

Treating psoriasis with topical ointments and creams works for many people, but it's not a sure bet. Don't be surprised if a treatment that was working at some point stops helping. Another cream that never worked before may start to help. Let your doctor know what's working or not working. Together, you can make the right treatment decisions.

Since many topical treatments can irritate your skin and become less effective 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 under the skin.

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

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on September 24, 2014
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