Plaque psoriasis is a skin condition that is characterized by silver-white patches on the skin. These patches can be itchy and be prone to flaking off. Although there is currently no known cause of plaque psoriasis, many believe that the condition stems from a weak or abnormal immune system. In the immune system, a type of white blood cells known as T cells attacks the body’s healthy skin cell. This causes the overproduction of skin cells which leads to the patches that characterize plaque psoriasis. So what sort of plaque psoriasis treatments are out there?
Just as the exact cause of plaque psoriasis is currently unknown, there is currently no known cure for the condition either. However, there are a number of treatments that can help someone treat and/or manage plaque psoriasis. The common treatment options are discussed below.
One of the most common ways that plaque psoriasis is treated is through topical creams and/or ointments. The creams and/or ointments typically include medications like corticosteroids, salicylic acid, anthralin, and coal tar. Depending on what kind of product it is, the topical medicine can either be bought over-the-counter or prescribed by a doctor.
Corticosteroids treat plaque psoriasis by suppressing the immune system, which helps with reducing skin cell production. Because topical products that contain corticosteroids can be pretty powerful, doctors typically don’t recommend the medicine to be used on more sensitive areas of the body like the face. It is also important to note that corticosteroid-based topical products lose effectiveness when used in the long-term. As such, it is strongly suggested that patients only apply corticosteroid creams/ointments when they have active breakouts of plaque psoriasis symptoms.
Anthralin works similarly to corticosteroids in treating plaque psoriasis as it also helps with slowing down skin cell production. It is much more powerful than corticosteroids, though, and can stain anything it is applied on. Many doctors suggest that patients only use this type of topical product in the short-term. Anthralin-based topical medication is typically only used when the patient does not respond to other forms of treatment.
Coal tar is also another topical medication that treats plaque psoriasis. It is actually one of the oldest treatments for plaque psoriasis. Coal tar treats plaque psoriasis by removing the dead skin cells from the skin surface. This helps reduce the itching symptom often seen in plaque psoriasis. However, coal tar is not often some patient’s first choice of treatment due to the fact that it can stain clothing and that it imposes health risks to people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
This treatment is also known as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and/or rays. It is typically recommended for those with a mild or moderate form of plaque psoriasis. Like topical medication, phototherapy works by suppressing the immune system so that skin cell production is reduced. However, it is not as effective as topical medication.
Phototherapy is usually done along with another type of treatment, like oral/injected medication or topical medication. The easiest way for someone to access this treatment is to simply spend time in the sun. It is important to keep sun exposure brief, though, as too much can actually worsen the symptoms of plaque psoriasis. Be sure not to get sunburnt because this can complicate the condition.
If regular exposure to sunlight is hard to come by — this is especially true during winter — phototherapy can also be accessed through UV lamps. UV lamps are not very expensive and come in many shapes and sizes. Patients can purchase them based on their own preferences. SImilar to phototherapy using natural sunlight, those with plaque psoriasis should also limit their time spent under the UV lamps. Again, too much exposure can actually worsen the symptoms of plaque psoriasis.
Oral or Injected Medication
This type of treatment is typically given to people who have a more severe form of plaque psoriasis. It is also given to those who do not respond to topical products and/or phototherapy. It should be noted that these medications are generally very powerful when compared to topical medication or phototherapy. They can also cause some serious side effects.
Retinoids are a type of drug that can be taken orally. It is a chemical compound that is related to vitamin A and is often chosen as a form of treatment for plaque psoriasis when other treatments do not work. Retinoid works to treat plaque psoriasis by helping to lower skin cell production. Side effects of this medication can include swelling of the lips, hair loss, and birth defects for those who are pregnant. However, these side effects usually go away once the patient stops taking retinoids.
Methotrexate can be given through an IV or orally. Similar to retinoids, it treats plaque psoriasis by reducing skin cell production. However, methotrexate is usually better received since the side effects of the drug is less jarring. Side effects of this medication can include nausea, fatigue, and/or loss of appetite. Side effects don’t typically occur, particularly if the medication is administered in small doses.
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