Plaque Psoriasis Treatment Options
Psoriasis is a condition in which cells build up and form rashes, scales and itchy, dry patches on the skin. It is thought to be an immune system problem with triggers including infections, stress and cold. Psoriasis is very common, with more than three million cases in the United States every year. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of the disease; it appears as raised, red patches covered with a silvery white buildup of dead skin cells or scale. These patches, or plaques as they are often called, most often appear on the scalp, knees, elbows, lower back, face, palms and soles of feet. They can crack and bleed and are typically very itchy and painful. Unfortunately, psoriasis is chronic; it can last for years or it can even last a lifetime. And, although psoriasis has no known cure, treatment can help immensely. Many different treats exist with one goal: to remove scales and stop skin cells from growing so quickly. Keep reading to learn about three treatment options that have been shown to help plaque psoriasis sufferers get some much-needed relief.
The first treatment option includes topical ointments, which are medications applied to the skin. Prescription topicals slow down excessive skin cell growth and reduce inflammation. There are many effective topical ointments for psoriasis; some can be purchased over the counter (OTC) and others are only available by prescription. OTC topical ointments come in many different forms. Some products contain things like aloe vera to help moisturize and soothe skin while removing scales and relieving itching. Prescription topical treatments use Anthralin, synthetic vitamin D3 and vitamin A to control psoriasis lesions. Most topical ointments contain steroids of various potencies, tar and vitamin D-like molecules. In addition, steroids are common treatments for psoriasis, as they can considerably reduce swelling and redness.
Next on our list is phototherapy. This involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light. Phototherapy is administered under controlled conditions in a doctor’s office or at home in various wavelengths with or without supplemental medication. Although there are various types of UV light, UVB light works best for treating psoriasis. UVB light penetrates the skin and slows the growth of affected skin cells. This treatment involves exposing the skin to an artificial UVB light source for a set length of time. During some UVB treatment, psoriasis may worsen temporarily before improving. The skin can also become red and itchy from exposure to the UVB light. To avoid more discomfort, the amount of UVB light administered might need to be reduced.
A third option is the use of systemic medications. These are prescription drugs that work throughout a person’s body. Systemic medications are typically only used for people with psoriatic arthritis and those with moderate to severe psoriasis for whom other treatments have been unsuccessful. Systemic medications can be taken orally or through injection or infusion. Most include a Vitamin A-like drug, acritretin, short-term cyclosporine therapy (for severe flares) and methotrexate. In addition, newer, extremely targeted systemic medications are now available. These newer drugs must be given by injection into the subcutaneous tissue either by the patient or by IV infusion in a medical facility. These medications are different because they have precise targets that they block in the immune system. Because these drugs are so specific in how they work, they claim to offer increased safety and improved efficacy.