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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

Treatment for psoriasis varies depending on the:

  • Type of psoriasis

  • Amount and location of affected skin

  • Risks and benefits of each type of treatment

Treatments for psoriasis include:

  • Topical treatments. These are treatments applied directly to the skin.

    • Daily skin care with emollients for lubrication. These include petroleum jelly or unscented moisturizers.

    • Corticosteroid creams, lotions and ointments. These may be prescribed in medium and high-strength forms for stubborn plaques on the hands, feet, arms, legs and trunk. They may be prescribed in low-strength forms for areas of delicate skin such as the face.

    • Calcipotriol (Dovonex) slows production of skin scales.

    • Tazarotene (Tazorac) is a synthetic vitamin A derivative.

    • Coal tar

    • Salicylic acid to remove scales

  • Phototherapy. Extensive or widespread psoriasis may be treated with light. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet B or ultraviolet A, alone or in combination with coal tar.

    • A treatment called PUVA combines ultraviolet A light treatment with an oral medication that improves the effectiveness of the light treatment.

    • Laser treatment also can be used. It allows treatment to be more focused so that higher amounts of UV light can be used.

  • Vitamin A derivatives. These are used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis involving large areas of the body. These treatments are very powerful. Some have the potential to cause severe side effects. It's essential to understand the risks and be monitored closely.

  • Immunosuppressants. These drugs work by suppressing the immune system. They are used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis involving large areas of the body.

  • Antineoplastic agents. More rarely, these drugs (which are most often used to treat cancer cells) may be prescribed for severe psoriasis.

  • Biologic therapies. Biologics are newer agents used for psoriasis that has not responded to other treatments. Psoriasis is caused, in part, by substances made by the immune system that cause inflammation. Biologics act against these substances. Biologic treatments tend to be quite expensive. And they must be injected rather than taken as a pill.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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