There is still no cure for psoriasis. But if you have the condition, there are many treatment options available. The trick is to find one that works for you.
Different people respond to different treatments, says Ashley Jenkins, MD, a dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Missouri at Columbia. In some cases, a drug may work for a while and then stop working. Then it’s time to try something new.
If you have psoriasis, here’s what you need to know about your treatment plan.
The goal of psoriasis treatment is to have plaques on no more than 1% of your body. If you have symptoms in other areas of your body, such as B. scarred nails or inflamed joints, the treatment should reduce these as well.
“It can take up to 12 weeks for a drug to fully work,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic in New York City. “If your symptoms are not [mostly cleared] Inform your dermatologist during this time.”
Most doctors begin treatment with topical medications, such as corticosteroids, that you apply directly to your skin. “They have fewer side effects and can be effective, especially if you have mild to moderate psoriasis,” says Jenkins.
But if you have a lot of scales on your skin, have joint pain, or aren’t getting relief from topicals, your doctor may recommend a different treatment. That could include light therapy or “systemic treatments.” These are oral or injected medications that treat inflammation throughout the body. You can combine systemic medications with topical treatments or use them alone. You should be up and running within a few weeks.
Regardless of your treatment, your doctor will examine your skin to determine if it’s working, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
If you have psoriatic arthritis, “your doctor may also recommend tests, like X-rays, to determine if you have joint damage,” Zeichner says.
Biological drugs, a type of treatment that suppresses your immune system, may help. Your doctor can put you on them for a few months to get your inflammation under control, Zeichner says, and then switch to another treatment, like light therapy and topical medications.
Contact your doctor right away,” Zeichner says if you notice your psoriasis getting worse or you have a side effect related to your treatment. These are signs that it might be time to try a new type of medication. Sometimes combining treatments like a biological and a topical ointment or cream produces better results.
“You should talk to your dermatologist or doctor about what results you want and how aggressive you are willing to be with the treatment,” says Jenkins. There are dozens of different options, so don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t like the plan your doctor suggests for you.
Having psoriasis means seeing your dermatologist or another member of your healthcare team regularly, especially when your symptoms flare up. Make sure your doctor looks at all aspects of your health, not just your skin.
“Psoriasis is a sign of inflammation in your body. This inflammation interferes with your body’s ability to regulate your immune system,” Engelman says. The effects on your immune system can cause or contribute to many other health problems, including joint damage. Tests to measure your blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight can help your doctor identify and treat health problems related to psoriasis before they cause serious problems.
Efficacy isn’t the only reason you should change medications. If you don’t like or can’t live with the side effects, or find a drug too difficult to use, you may want to switch. Depending on your health insurance plan, cost can also be an issue. Know that it’s okay to go off a medication even if it’s working.
“It’s important to be your own advocate,” Engelman says. The key is to be willing to try something different.
“If left untreated, psoriasis can have a major impact on your health and daily life,” says Jenkins. “It’s important to partner with your doctor and keep trying new approaches until you find a solution that works for you.”