Understanding Psoriasis -- Treatment
Light Therapy for Psoriasis
Even regular doses of sunlight -- not enough to produce sunburn -- can help psoriasis lesions in many people. For persistent, difficult-to-treat cases of psoriasis, many doctors recommend light therapy. One of the most effective treatments is PUVA (the drug psoralen combined with ultraviolet A, or UVA, light). However, this form of therapy is used far less often today, because it has been shown to increase the risk of developing skin cancer -- even decades after stopping this therapy.
Some doctors may prescribe ultraviolet B light (UVB) treatment using a light box alone or with other therapies such as coal tar. A more targeted ultraviolet light treatment, called narrow-band UVB therapy, is less carcinogenic than PUVA but almost as effective.
Oral Drugs for Psoriasis
When other treatments fail, some doctors prescribe oral drugs to treat psoriasis. Some of these medications affect the immune system. One such medication, methotrexate (also used as a chemotherapy drug for cancer and for various forms of arthritis), can produce dramatic clearing of the psoriasis lesions. However, it can cause side effects, so the prescribing doctor should perform regular blood tests. Another medication of this type is cyclosporine.
Oral retinoids, compounds with vitamin-A-like properties, can be mildly helpful to people with severe psoriasis. Women of childbearing age need to use birth control with this medication and for three years afterwards, because it is associated with increased risk for birth defects.
Newer treatments for people with severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are now available. Several "biologic" drugs, which are made from human or animal proteins, focus on controlling the body's immune response. These drugs are quite effective but are extremely expensive and include etanercept (Enbrel), adalimumab (Humira) and ustekinumab (Stelara).
Natural Psoriasis Treatments
If medications fail to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis or cause unwanted side effects, people may try natural remedies, such as herbs and vitamins, for relief. Some people with psoriasis find natural sunlight and ocean water helpful. Some seaside resorts offer special programs for people with psoriasis.
If you are considering natural remedies for psoriasis, here's what you should know about some of the more commonly used remedies: