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Topical Treatments for Psoriasis - Some Old, Some New

By Edited Jun 19, 2016 0 0

Topical treatments can be very effective for mild psoriasis

What is "mild psoriasis" anyway?

If you have psoriasis on only a small portion of your body - that is, usually a combined area no larger than your hand, you are said to have a mild case of psoriasis, and the preference is to treat it with topical treatments. Any drug ha

Topical psoriasis treatment
s side effects, and since psoriasis is a life-long condition, your doctor will want to minimize the harm that is done to other parts of your body by giving you only the level of treatment that is necessary to control the psoriasis. You should still take excellent care of your health and watch your weight otherwise, because psoriasis is a chronic disease linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The first thing to do topically is to make sure to keep your skin moisturized with emollients like lotions and creams. Bathe daily, but don't use excessively hot water. As soon as you get out of the bath, slather on some lotion or cream to keep the skin moist. That sort of treatment has no side effects, so it's the best thing to start with.

What prescription treatments are available?

Psoriasis isn't just dry skin, however, so you'll most likely need a prescription drug at least now and then. The most common type of topical drug used for psoriasis is steroids, which can range from mild to extremely strong formulations.  A couple of brand names you may know are Clobex or Olux, and they can be effective very quickly in reducing the psoriasis symptoms. Your doctor will prescribe and advise the mildest formulation that will manage your psoriasis, because the stronger steroids have the most side effects, such as thinning of the skin. Also psoriasis often becomes resistant to treatments after a while. You don't want to run out of tricks immediately! Your doctor may give you a stronger prescription for some  parts of your body, such as your knees, elbows, or scalp, then a milder one for areas with thinner skin, like  the ears or face.  If you're using a topical steroid, don't withdraw it suddenly when the psoriasis clears, or it may rebound as bad or even worse than before!  Instead, withdraw the treatment slowly over days, as directed by your doctor.

Another type of topical treatment you may be prescribed is calcipotriol, a vitamin D analog which you may know as Dovonex.  Calcipotriol is safer to use over a long period of time than steroids are,  but it may take up to two weeks before you start seeing any improvement with calcipotriol alone. For faster clearing of psoriasis, you may be prescribed a combination product, Taclonex which contains calcipotriol along with betamethasone dipropionate (a steroid). The two components of Taclonex attack psoriasis in different ways. The betamethasone diproprionate relieves the inflammation (and therefore the itching) while the calcipotriol slows the skin cell growth cycle. 

Tazorac (tazarotene gel) is a retinoid gel, and it is also prescribed for acne. Since Tazorac can be irritating to skin that's not affected by  psoriasis, be careful to only apply the Tazorac to psoriasis lesions. Since Tazorac is a retinoid, it's very important not to use Tazorac if you are pregnant. 

Anthralin, which you may know as Psoriatec, is a good topical medication  for psoriasis, because it doesn't thin the skin over time like steroids. The problem with anthralin is that it stains everything it comes in contact with if it's not washed off immediately. That includes your hair, your clothing or towels, and even your bathtub, so the best thing to do is use it for the prescribed time then wash it out of everything (including your own hair, of course) thoroughly.

Salicylic acid is present in low concentrations in some  shampoos and lotions and is great for removing scale. Once the scale is reduced, other treatments can get to the psoriasis-affected skin much more effectively.

Coal tar is an over-the-counter treatment that is effective, but if you wash your hair with it you'll smell that distinctive smell all day.  It can also stain fabrics and light colored  hair.

Psoriasis treatment sometimes seems to be as much of an art as it is a science, but with the modern drugs and regimens your doctor can prescribe, psoriasis can be treated very effectively. If you haven't been to the dermatologist in a few years, you might want to go back and see what new tools are at his/her disposal to help you.

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