Psoriasis : How to treat? Medical and non-medical ways!
Published Mar 10, 2023 • By Polina Kochetkova
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by red, scaly patches on the skin that can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing. Psoriasis can range from mild to severe and can affect any part of the body.
Living with psoriasis can be very difficult, therefore today we would like to present you with some treatment options to consider in your chronic illness battle.
Keep reading this article to find medical and alternative ways to treat psoriasis!
Why do we have psoriasis?
The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it is believed to be related to an overactive immune system. It is thought that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells, causing them to grow and multiply too quickly. This leads to the formation of thick, scaly patches on the skin. Even though there is no cure for psoriasis, some symptoms can be managed with the right treatment. It is highly recommended to visit a doctor to discover the right approach for your situation and use the most effective medication in your specific case.
What are the medical options to treat psoriasis?
Topical – creams and ointments applied on the skin
Medication applied on the body surface, on the skin, or on mucous membranes are called topical medications. When facing psoriasis symptoms, topical treatments: creams and ointments - are used on the skin surface to treat inflammation, itching, and scaling. These medications can be quite helpful in managing mild to moderate cases of psoriasis, and they are typically the first type of medication to use against the condition.
- The most popular topical psoriasis treatments are corticosteroids, which lessen inflammation. These medications are available in many different formulations, such as creams, ointments, lotions, and gels. They can be used for short-term or long-term treatment. Corticosteroids can cause multiple side effects and may not fit every case. Possible side effects may include: weight gain, osteoporosis, eye problems, and increased infection risk.
- Vitamin D analogs are another type of topical medication for psoriasis that work to limit the proliferation of a certain skin cell. Vitamin D treatments can cause allergic reactions as well as other side effects, therefore may not fit everyone.
- Psoriasis is also treated with topical retinoids. These medications can assist with reducing the thickening of the skin and the formation of patches. Topical retinoids usage is not recommended for pregnant women as it can cause birth defects. One of the major side effects of topical retinoids is increased light sensitivity of the skin, therefore these medications should not be used in combination with phototherapy.
- Another topical therapy for psoriasis is coal tar. This prescription can help minimize skin roughness as well as reduce itchiness.
- Salicylic acid can help to reduce the thick, scaly patches of skin associated with psoriasis, as well as reduce inflammation and redness. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before using salicylic acid, as it can interact with certain medications and may not be suitable for everyone. Overuse of salicylic acid can irritate the skin and worsen the symptoms of psoriasis.
- Cold cream is a topical treatment that has been used for centuries to treat psoriasis. It is a thick, greasy cream that is applied directly to the skin. It is made from a combination of oils, waxes, and other ingredients. Cold cream is thought to help reduce itching, and scaling associated with psoriasis and soften the skin. However, it is important to note that this treatment can be greasy and may cause skin irritation in some people. Patients with skin irritation due to the usage of cold cream can consider switching to a less greasy, water-based treatment. It is also important to note that cold cream should not be used on open wounds or broken skin.
Systemic – oral and injected medications
Systemic drug is a drug that works through the whole organism and does not only influence a localized part of the body. Systemic treatment is the most aggressive form of psoriasis treatment, usually prescribed in severe cases of the disease or if the first-line treatments prove to be ineffective. Systemic medications can cause strong side effects and must be carefully monitored by the patient and the doctor. Systemic medications work by targeting the immune system, which is responsible for causing the inflammation associated with psoriasis.
Common oral medications include methotrexate, cyclosporine, and acitretin. Methotrexate and cyclosporine are immunosuppressants that work by suppressing the immune system and reducing inflammation. Acitretin is a retinoid that works by slowing down the production and proliferation of skin cells.
Common injected medications include biologic drugs, such as adalimumab, etanercept, and infliximab. These medications work by targeting specific proteins in the immune system that are responsible for causing inflammation. They are typically used in combination with other treatments, such as topical medications and light therapy.
Phototherapy – skin exposure to ultraviolet light
Phototherapy is widely used as a treatment method against psoriasis. This therapy uses specific lights to reduce rapidly growing skin cells, calm down the immune system and minimize the itching of the skin. The most prescribed form of phototherapy is called narrowband UVB. This laser insures kids' and adults’ safety during the procedure. However, phototherapy is not recommended to people with a high risk of skin cancer. Phototherapy is usually performed at the hospitals or medical centers and requires two or three sessions per week, for most patients, to be effective.
What non-medicinal management of psoriasis is there?
Living with psoriasis can be a challenge, but there are many lifestyle tips that can help you manage your condition. Herbal supplements, diets, and exercises for psoriasis are popular due to lower price and more familiar components among the patients. Today, we would like to share some of the most used alternative methods with their pros and cons. It is important to check with your doctor or a pharmacist when choosing to try those solutions, to avoid interactions with your current medications. Moreover, these pieces of advice and lifestyle changes cannot substitute proper medical management of the disease.
Aloe vera has been used for centuries to treat a variety of skin conditions, including psoriasis. It is known for its soothing and calming effects on the skin. Using aloe vera gel or cream on patches can help reduce redness, itchiness and overall discomfort related to the illness. Aloe vera can be applied directly to the affected area or mixed with other ingredients to create a moisturizer or a cold cream. The studies show that cream or gel form is safer for the patient and should be used over tablets containing aloe vera.
One of the ancient Chinese practices – acupuncture, is another alternative treatment for psoriasis. This healing method has been used for centuries to treat most illnesses and conditions. In recent years, the popularity of acupuncture as a treatment for psoriasis has increased all over the world. Acupuncture involves the insertion of multiple needles in the skin, with the intention of releasing stress, regulating blood flow, improving the immune system and helping with inflammation. The Chinese medicine theory views psoriasis as a “Blood stasis”, suggesting that regulation of the blood flow with acupuncture practices can better the patient’s health. While more research is required to confirm its effectiveness, it may be worth considering for those who are looking for an alternative to medical treatments, in combination with Western medicine.
Have you ever wondered “Is natural sun good for psoriasis?” Well, the answer is yes, and no. Artificial light is widely used in psoriasis treatment, however natural sun exposure must be strictly limited and approached with caution. National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) notes that “using sunlight to treat psoriasis is not recommended for everyone. Sunlight is not as effective for the treatment of psoriasis as prescription phototherapy. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if treating with sunlight is right for you.” There is no one-fits-all guide on how to use sunlight to better your skin condition however, with professional guidance, sunlight can be helpful in psoriasis treatment. It is vital to know, - that too much sun exposure can lead to sunburns, and boost psoriasis, therefore it is better to not stay under the sun for too long. The usage of sunblock is important for psoriasis patients, as the skin on the patches becomes more prone to negative sun exposure. Nevertheless, when choosing a sunblock for your skin, it is better to use a high protective factor (+30 SPF and higher), fragrance-free and coloring-free option, with no parabens, formaldehyde or other strong preservatives that can be damaging to the skin.
Stress relief practices
Stress can trigger the immune system to respond in a way, that can lead to the development of psoriasis. It can also worsen existing psoriasis symptoms. Stress can cause the body to produce more of certain hormones, such as cortisol, which is implicated in the inflammatory response. It is important to manage stress to reduce the risk of developing psoriasis or worsening existing symptoms. Stress management techniques, - such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help to reduce stress levels and improve overall health. Additionally, it is important to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly to better your health. However, when choosing yoga or exercises to perform, make sure to avoid sweat from getting on the irritated skin areas, to avoid worsening of the psoriasis symptoms.
Overall, each psoriasis case is unique and requires medical supervision and often a combination of different treatments to stay effective.
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