Psoriasis is a skin affection that may cause a lot of discomfort, although this condition is not well known by everyone, there is no doubt that those who suffer from it have to live under strict habits to control the symptoms. This skin condition affects more than 100 million people worldwide, according to the data from World Health Organization (WHO) (1).
Psoriasis is a condition that has no cure, but there are treatments to relieve the symptoms. In this article we will explore a few treatment options.
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But first, what is psoriasis after all?
Psoriasis is a name given to a chronic disease that generally appears and disappears. The treatment aims to stop the accelerated growth of the skin cells.
As mentioned before, psoriasis is a skin condition that has no cure, but the symptoms can be under control. Some measures regarding to the lifestyle can be taken, by applying moisturizing cream, quitting smoking and managing stress (all these small habits can control the dryness of the skin, preventing its flaking). All this information according to Mayo Clinic (2).
Treatments for the symptoms
In addition to the changes in the lifestyle that Mayo Clinic mentioned above, there are other options to control the symptoms of psoriasis, that are especially helpful to relieve the discomfort that this condition eventually causes.
Some of these treatments you can find bellow:
This type of medication is the most frequently prescribed in order to treat mild to moderate psoriasis, because its action reduces inflammation and relieves itching (frequent symptoms of the condition), and can be used together with other types of treatments.
For sensitive areas where psoriasis uses to appear, such as the face or skin folds, ointments with mild corticosteroids are usually recommended. These same ointments are also recommended to treat widespread blemishes of damaged skin.
-Analogues of vitamin D
The name can be different, but analogues of vitamin D are nothing more than synthetic forms of this vitamin, used to slow down the growth of skin cells. Examples of this type of product are: Calcipotriol (brand name Dovonex) that is a cream or solution containing an analog of vitamin D that can be bought just under prescription and it is used to treat mild to moderate psoriasis, and can be combined with other types of treatments. Although effective, Calcipotriol may irritate the skin. On the other hand, Calcitriol (brand name Vectical) is expensive, but can be just as effective as Calcipotriol and possibly less irritating than it.
This medication helps to slow down the growth of skin cells. The substance Anthralin (brand name Dritho-Scalp) can be used to remove skin flakes; however, as side effect, it can irritate the skin, and it stains almost anything it comes in contact with. The product is generally applied for a short period and then is removed with water.
To decrease inflammation frequently caused by psoriasis, you can use this type of medication derived of vitamin A – although it presents as side effect the skin irritation. By using topical retinoids, an increase of the sensitivity to sunlight can occur, that is why you should apply sunscreen before going outdoors while using the medication.
Topical retinoids offer lower risks of birth defects than oral retinoids. However, substances as tazarotene (brand name Tazorac, Avage) are not recommended if you are pregnant or lactating, or if you intend to become pregnant.
In order to reduce inflammation and buildup of plaque, common symptoms of this condition, Calcineurin inhibitors, such as tacrolimus (brand name Prograf) and pimecrolimus (brand name Elidel), can be used.
As Calcineurin inhibitors have a potential to increase the risk of skin cancer and lymphoma, its prolonged or continuous use are not recommended. This type of treatment is especially useful in areas of thin skin, such as around the eyes, where creams containing steroid or retinoid in their formulas are too irritating or can cause harmful effects.
Salicylic acid is a very common substance. Proof of that is that you can find it available in the over-the-counter (without prescription) mode. Regarding to psoriasis, salicylic acid promotes the detachment of dead cells of the skin and reduces formation of skin flakes. Sometimes, medications as topical corticosteroids or coal tar can be combined with salicylic acid, to increase its effectiveness. To treat psoriasis of the scalp, salicylic acid is available in medicinal shampoos and solutions to the scalp.
It is a substance derived from coal, useful to reduce formation of skin flakes, itching and inflammation, symptoms very frequented related by those who suffer from this condition. A side effect of coal tar: it can irritate the skin, besides being dirty, and it can stain clothing and bed linen, and has a strong smell.
You can buy coal tar in over-the-counter (without prescription) shampoos, creams and oils, but in higher concentrations, it can be bought only with prescription. This treatment is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.
As everybody knows, moisturizing creams are not medications; so, do not cure psoriasis on their own, but they can be used to reduce itching, formation of skin flakes and dryness – very common in this condition. Ointments that also contain moisturizing creams as their base are generally more effective than lighter creams and lotions. They should be applied immediately after bathing in order to retain moisture in the skin – reminding that a dry and flaking skin is also a symptom of psoriasis.
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