8 Proven Treatments for Plaque Psoriasis

This nasty skin condition is the most common type of psoriasis, and it causes raised, red patches covered with a silvery scales. Here are eight proven ways to treat plaque psoriasis.

Topical treatments for plaque psoriasis

plaque psoriasisCourtesy American Academy of DermatologyIf plaque psoriasis covers less than 10 percent of your body, it’s considered mild. In these cases, topical treatments tend to be the best bet, says Gary Goldenberg, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Steroids are among the most widely prescribed topical treatment for plaque psoriasis. They work by reducing the inflammation that fuels the condition. Some newer topicals such as Taclonex ointment and Enstilar foam combine steroids and vitamin D3, which slows the growth of skin cells, thinning the plaques. Vitamin A derivatives such as Tazorac also slow skin cell growth, and tar-based therapies like Anthralin reduce the rapid growth of skin cells.

Other topicals are available over-the-counter. Some contain salicylic acid or tar, which peel off the skin’s outer layer. Moisturizers are also effective as psoriasis tends to get worse when your skin is dry. Here is the best skin care routine for psoriasis, according to dermatologists.

Phototherapy for plaque psoriasis

While light therapy has surprising benefits for those with seasonal affective disorder, it’s also used to treat plaque psoriasis. Ultraviolet rays—in measured doses—can slow the growth of affected skin cells. There are different forms of phototherapy: Some are administered in a doctor’s office, and you can do others at home. “Light therapy is an option and it can work very well, but you may need to come to the office three times a week, and there is a copay for each visit,” Dr. Goldenberg says. Another drawback, he points out: “Phototherapy likely doesn’t help with the overall inflammation of psoriasis that we know can increase risk for heart disease and diabetes.”

Biologic drugs for plaque psoriasis

These medications target parts of the immune system to shut down inflammation, and they’re the mainstay of treatment for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis—typically defined as involvement of more than 10 percent of body surface, Dr. Goldenberg says. There are a host of biologics that target different aspects of the immune system. The hope is that these agents also reduce risks of some of the diseases that travel with psoriasis, including joint pain and heart disease. Biologics do carry some risks: Users can be more susceptible to infections such as tuberculosis.

Lasers for plaque psoriasis

The excimer laser is a treatment option for mild plaque psoriasis, says Philadelphia dermatologist Harold Farber, MD. It shoots high doses of ultraviolet B (UVB) light directly onto plaques to slow abnormal skin cell growth. “It works well when less than 10 percent of body surface area is involved in the plaque psoriasis,” he says. About two or three treatments per week are needed for maximum plaque-clearing effects. This laser is also one of top treatments for scalp psoriasis.

Systemic drugs for plaque psoriasis

Group of light brown diamond shape organic vitamins Winessyork/ShutterstockThere are several non-biologic medications that can help treat plaque psoriasis. One, Otezla (apremilast), is extremely effective for moderate plaque psoriasis, Dr. Goldenberg says. It’s a pill—no injection necessary—that inhibits an enzyme linked to inflammation. Common side effects include diarrhea, nausea and headache. All medications will work better if you steer clear of triggers. so make sure you avoid these seven foods that can make psoriasis worse.

Capsaicin for plaque psoriasis

When added to cream, capsaicin (the ingredient that gives chili peppers their kick) may curb itching and inflammation of plaque psoriasis. “It’s good for localized plaques, but can be hard to smear all over the body,” Dr. Farber says. “Sometimes I will use it in conjunction with other things depending on the extent and severity of the psoriasis.” Expect some burning and stinging at first, he warns. “More work needs to be done on the role capsaicin in plaque psoriasis.”

Weight loss for plaque psoriasis

Psoriasis affects more than just the skin. A growing body of evidence links it to heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers and autoimmune diseases. Losing weight can help mitigate those risks; slimming down also helps improve the symptoms of psoriasis, a study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reports. In fact, obese people with psoriasis who lost 10 percent to 15 percent of their excess weight saw lasting improvements in their symptoms.

Vanilla extract for plaque psoriasis

Yes, you read that correctly. Small amounts of artificial vanilla extract (vanillin) may be a plaque psoriasis treatment, according to a study in mice. It may work by reducing levels of the inflammatory proteins known as IL-17 and IL-23, which are linked to inflammation and are targets of prescription psoriasis medications. More research is necessary, but in the meantime, try out these all-natural home remedies for psoriasis.

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Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in WebMD, HealthDay, and other consumer health portals. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (for a cover story she wrote in Plastic Surgery Practice magazine); and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. She was part of the writing team awarded a 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award for her part in a WebMD series on autism. Her first foray into health reporting was with the Medical Tribune News Service, where her articles appeared regularly in such newspapers as the Detroit Free Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, and Los Angeles Daily News. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu.