Treatment can't cure your psoriasis, but it can relieve your symptoms for a while. And you don't have just one or two options. There are many ways to treat psoriasis, and you can combine treatments. So if one thing doesn't work, something else likely will.
You and your doctor will decide on a treatment plan based on:
Stress and psoriasis seem to go together. Stress can make psoriasis worse, and psoriasis can make you stressed. But there are ways to ease stress that may help your psoriasis, too.
Learn techniques to relax. Try one of these stress-busters:
They can lower stress and may even help your treatment. One study found that people who listened to meditation tapes while they got light therapy did twice as well as those who only got light therapy...
Most likely, your doctor will suggest a "1-2-3" approach. You'll start with topical creams and ointments. If they aren't enough, you might move on to light therapy. If your psoriasis still isn't under control, you might try pills or biologic drugs. Or your doctor may think a different approach will work better for you.
Psoriasis treatments include:
Creams and ointments. You buy these over the counter or with a prescription. Steroid creams and ointments are the most common. Salicylic acid helps remove scales. Other options include formulas containing vitamin D, including Dovonex and Sorilux, retinoids such as Tazorac, and tar solutions such as Psorent and Scytera. Used alone, these aren't likely to work if you have psoriasis that covers more than 10% to 20% of your skin.
Light therapy (phototherapy). Exposing your skin to the sun or other ultraviolet light can improve your symptoms. You do this at a doctor's office or with a phototherapy unit at home. Newer techniques use a laser, which can target a small area with very focused UVB light.
Oral drugs. For psoriasis that doesn't respond to other treatments, pills such as methotrexate, cyclosporine, and Soriatane may help. They are usually reserved for moderate to severe psoriasis, because the side effects can be severe and need more careful watching by a doctor.
Biologic drugs. These can improve psoriasis when nothing else does. And they seem to have fewer side effects than the pills used to treat psoriasis. But most biologics work by suppressing your immune system, so serious infections and even cancer are risks, though rare. Biologics used to treat psoriasis include Enbrel, Humira, Remicade, and Stelara.
Alternative Medicine for Psoriasis
There are many alternative methods on the market that claim to treat psoriasis, including vitamins, enemas, acupuncture, shark cartilage, and emu oil. There are even spas where you can relax in a hot pool while little fish eat psoriasis plaques off your body.
You may be tempted to try one if standard treatments don't seem to help you. But keep in mind that no alternative approach has been proven to help, and some may not be safe.
Check with your doctor before you try anything. Even some herbal supplements and drugstore treatments can be risky -- more so if you use them with other treatments. Don't assume that "natural" means "safe" or trust treatments that claim to be a cure.
Bruce E. Strober, MD, PhD, associate director of dermatopharmacology, department of dermatology, New York University School of Medicine; co-director, Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Center.
Jeffrey M. Weinberg, MD, director, Clinical Research Center, St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York City; assistant clinical professor of dermatology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.