Understanding psoriasis medication
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that typically causes red, scaly patches on the skin. It is not contagious. While there is no cure, treatments are available to help ease your psoriasis symptoms.
Psoriasis occurs when there's too much inflammation in the skin. This causes rapid growth and shedding of skin cells, which build up into red and scaly patches. The patches can appear anywhere in the body but are most common in areas such as your scalp, elbows, knees, abdomen, groin or between the buttocks. It often shows as red, raised rashes with white or silver scales but the condition can also present itself in a different way.
If you have psoriasis, there’s a lot you can do to ease some of the symptoms:
- regularly moisturising your skin
- reducing stress
- avoiding alcohol and smoking
- exposure to sunlight (taking care to protect your skin from sunburn)
Ointments and creams can help too.
Types of psoriasis medication
Different types of medication can be put on your skin to ease psoriasis. The aim is to reduce the inflammation. Common psoriasis medications that you apply to your skin include:
- Corticosteroids (synthetic versions of the steroid hormone cortisol)
- Calcipotriol (similar to Vitamin D) or calcipotriol combined with a topical corticosteroid)
- Tazarotene (based on Vitamin A)
You may be given just one medication or a mix depending on which parts of the body are affected.
If you use skin medications and your psoriasis still bothers you, you might be prescribed oral medication. This works on the immune system from the inside to reduce the inflammation.
They include retinoid, immunosuppressant and biotherapy medicines that are generally prescribed by specialist doctors.
Your doctor may also suggest ultraviolet therapy that mimics the effect of sunlight.
Important information about psoriasis medication
All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, but most of the time they are not. The main concerns with the psoriasis skin medicines are thinning of the skin, skin irritation and skin infections. Oral psoriasis medicines carry a higher risk of side effects.
Before taking any medicines, consider asking your doctor or pharmacist:
- what are the side effects of your psoriasis medicines?
- what are the benefits?
- what to do if you miss a dose
- what to do if you experience side effects
Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you feel unwell when taking your medicines. Do not stop or change your medicines without talking to your doctor.
Psoriasis tends to be a lifelong condition that flares up and down. You may need treatment your whole life if you have psoriasis.
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Last reviewed: March 2020