Psoriasis is a chronic disease that develops when a person’s immune system sends faulty signals that tell skin cells to grow too quickly. New skin cells form in days rather than weeks and the body does not shed these excess skin cells. The skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin, causing patches of psoriasis to appear.
The purpose of all psoriasis treatments is to reduce inflammation and slow down rapid skin cell division. Topical medications can offer considerable relief and side effects are usually limited to the areas of the skin where they are applied. The disadvantages are that they are often messy and may be difficult to apply to large body areas and those that are difficult to reach. Also, when they are applied to large areas of the body, or for long periods of time, they can cause significant side effects.
If your skin does not respond to topical treatments, we may recommend using ultraviolet (UV) light, also known as phototherapy. Phototherapy is safer than sunlight exposure when used under a dermatologist’s care. However, all UV light exposure can cause sunburn, skin wrinkles, eye damage and skin cancer. We may also prescribe topical medications that increase the effectiveness of the UV light. Phototherapy is usually very effective and remissions may last a long time. However, to achieve these results requires several trips each week to special facilities for treatment.
We may also offer systemic medications, which are drugs that work from the inside out to help control this disease. They are usually taken orally, although some must be given by injection. There are several systemic medications, each with unique actions and side effects. Some offer rapid clearing, but are not recommended for long-term use. Others result in slower clearing but are better suited for maintaining remission. The big advantage of systemic medications is the fact that taking a pill is generally more convenient than topical or light therapies.