Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, causing red, inflamed patches covered with silvery scales. This complex disorder can be physically uncomfortable and emotionally distressing, leading many individuals to seek the most effective treatment to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. However, due to the variability of psoriasis and individual responses to treatments, finding the best approach can be challenging. That’s why it’s important to understand the different treatment options and work with your doctor to find the best one for you. In this article, we will explore some of the most common and recommended treatments for psoriasis, considering their effectiveness, safety, and suitability for different types of psoriasis. Remember that each person’s experience with psoriasis is unique, and consulting a dermatologist is crucial for tailoring the best treatment plan for your specific needs.
For mild to moderate psoriasis, topical treatments are often the first line of defence. These treatments are applied directly to the skin and include corticosteroids, retinoids, and coal tar. They can be effective in reducing inflammation and slowing the growth of skin cells, but may not be suitable for severe cases of psoriasis or for use on large areas of the body. These medications are applied directly to the affected skin and may include:
These anti-inflammatory creams or ointments can reduce redness, itching, and scaling. They are available in various strengths, with stronger formulations typically reserved for more severe flare-ups.
Vitamin D Analogues
These topical treatments help to slow down the growth of skin cells, which is accelerated in psoriasis. They can be used alone or in combination with corticosteroids for enhanced efficacy.
Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are prescribed to normalise skin cell growth. They may be used as part of a broader treatment plan or in combination with other medications.
Often combined with other treatments, salicylic acid helps to remove scales and promote the absorption of other topical medications.
Phototherapy (Light Therapy)
Phototherapy, or light therapy, involves exposing the skin to UVB light to slow the growth of skin cells and reduce inflammation. It can be done at home with a handheld device or in a doctor’s office with a UVB booth. However, it may not be suitable for people with a history of skin cancer or who are at high risk of developing it. Light therapy can be highly effective for various types of psoriasis and is available in different forms:
Utilises artificial UVB light to slow down the rapid growth of skin cells, reducing inflammation and scaling. UVB phototherapy can be administered in a doctor’s office or at home with a prescribed light unit.
This involves combining the light-sensitising medication psoralen with UVA light exposure. PUVA therapy is typically reserved for severe or resistant cases of psoriasis due to potential side effects.
For moderate to severe psoriasis, when topical treatments and light therapy are insufficient, systemic medications may be prescribed. These medications work throughout the body to target the underlying immune system dysfunction responsible for psoriasis. However, they can have side effects and may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain medications. Some common systemic treatments include:
An oral or injectable medication that suppresses the immune system and slows skin cell growth. Methotrexate is commonly used for moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
These are a newer class of medications that specifically target certain immune system proteins involved in psoriasis. Biologics are administered through injections or infusions and have shown remarkable effectiveness in treating psoriasis with fewer systemic side effects compared to traditional systemic medications.
Derived from vitamin A, oral retinoids can be prescribed for severe psoriasis that doesn’t respond to other treatments. They work by inhibiting skin cell growth and reducing inflammation.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
In addition to medical treatments, certain lifestyle changes and home remedies may complement psoriasis management. These include:
Keeping the skin well-hydrated can help reduce itching and scaling. Moisturisers with ingredients like ceramides, urea, or shea butter are particularly beneficial.
Identifying and avoiding triggers that worsen psoriasis, such as stress, certain medications, and skin injuries, can help manage flare-ups.
Limited sun exposure may help improve psoriasis symptoms due to the natural production of vitamin D. However, it’s essential to avoid excessive sun exposure, which can lead to sunburn and trigger psoriasis flare-ups.
Stress can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, so stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or counselling may be helpful.
The best treatment for psoriasis varies from person to person, depending on the type and severity of the condition, as well as individual responses to treatments. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, a combination of topical treatments, light therapy, systemic medications, and lifestyle modifications can provide effective relief and improve the quality of life for those living with psoriasis. It’s crucial to work closely with a dermatologist or healthcare provider to develop a personalised treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals. Remember that ongoing research is continually advancing our understanding of psoriasis and developing new treatments, offering hope for a brighter future for those affected by this challenging skin condition.