How to Treat Psoriasis

August 20, 2020

Man using topical cream to treat psoriasis

Since August is psoriasis awareness month, we are happy to present the second installment of our series on psoriasis. We have teamed up with dermatologists in our practices to give a brief overview of the various treatments available for psoriasis.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune (or autoinflammatory) disease that can affect the body in a number of ways. There are multiple types of psoriasis, but the most common form is known as chronic plaque psoriasis. Sometimes it is called psoriasis vulgaris or simply “psoriasis.”

Psoriasis is a condition in which the body’s immune system is hyperactive in ways that it shouldn’t be. This hyperactivity leads to inflammation throughout the body and causes rashes to appear on the skin. Most commonly it affects the elbows and knees, but it can affect many parts of the body. For more information on psoriasis, see Part 1 of this blog series on psoriasis.

How do you treat psoriasis?

There are a number of ways in which psoriasis can be treated. The first step in determining an appropriate treatment for a patient includes assessing the severity of their disease. Your doctor will assess both the extent to which your body is covered with psoriasis – also known as your body surface area – and they will also assess the severity of the individual psoriatic plaques themselves. Most patients, about 80%, are considered to have mild disease. These patients are typically treated with topical steroids. For the 20% of patients who are considered moderate to severe, there are a number of other treatments available in addition to topical steroids, including phototherapy, oral systemic treatment, and biologic (or injectable) medications.

Which systemic medications are available to treat psoriasis?

There are a number of systemic medications available to patients with moderate to severe psoriasis. Speaking to a board-certified dermatologist to review your options is highly suggested. The medication choice should be tailored to a patient’s needs. There are a number of oral medications that are available to patients with psoriasis. Methotrexate and cyclosporine are two older medications that can be very helpful in controlling psoriasis but have riskier side effect profiles compared to some of the other treatments available today. Furthermore, patients cannot use these medications long term. A newer oral option – apremilast – is safer to use than both methotrexate and cyclosporine, but it is less effective in certain scenarios than these two medications. Overall, the best medications available for moderate to severe psoriasis right now are the injectable – or biologic – medications. These medications are classified based on what specific chemicals they act upon in the immune system. They are grouped as follows: TNF-alpha inhibitors, IL-12/23 inhibitors, IL-17 inhibitors, and IL-23 inhibitors. Each class of medications has its own unique target to treatment in psoriasis. Some of these medications are also approved for use in other autoimmune conditions, and some are approved for use in psoriatic arthritis as well. Your physician should review the options with you and arrive at a choice for treatment that satisfies your needs and comfort.

Related: How to Manage Psoriasis in Cold Weather

Schedule a Visit to U.S. Dermatology Partners

When you’re ready to get started learning more about psoriasis and the treatments available to you, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team is here to help. Our skilled dermatologists offer effective treatment options and can partner with you to manage symptoms of all types of psoriasis. If you would like to schedule an appointment in an office near you, use our in-office appointment request form to get started. One of our team members will be in touch soon.

If you would prefer to start with a virtual consultation with our team, our dermatologists are happy to also offer teledermatology visits. You can schedule an appointment to visit with us virtually using our teledermatology request form.

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