03 Sep All About Psoriasis, Part 2
In Part 2 of 2 on our in-depth look at psoraisis, we’ll tackle a variety of treatments, diet choices, living with psoraisis, and more. If you missed out on Part 1, check it out!
Treatment options for psoriasis
Psoriasis has no cure. Treatments aim to reduce inflammation and scales, slow the growth of skin cells, and remove plaques. Psoriasis treatments fall into three categories:
Creams and ointments applied directly to the skin can be helpful for reducing mild to moderate psoriasis.
Topical psoriasis treatments include:
- topical corticosteroids
- topical retinoids
- vitamin D analogues
- salicylic acid
People with moderate to severe psoriasis, and those who haven’t responded well to other treatment types, may need to use oral or injected medications. Many of these medications have severe side effects. Doctors usually prescribe them for short periods of time.
These medications include:
- cyclosporine (Sandimmune)
- Light therapy
This psoriasis treatment uses ultraviolet (UV) or natural light. Sunlight kills the overactive white blood cells that are attacking healthy skin cells and causing the rapid cell growth. Both UVA and UVB light may be helpful in reducing symptoms of mild to moderate psoriasis.
Most people with moderate to severe psoriasis will benefit from a combination of treatments. This type of therapy uses more than one of the treatment types to reduce symptoms. Some people may use the same treatment their entire lives. Others may need to change treatments occasionally if their skin stops responding to what they’re using.
Medication for psoriasis
If you have moderate to severe psoriasis — or if psoriasis stops responding to other treatments — your doctor may consider an oral or injected medication.
The most common oral and injected medications used to treat psoriasis include:
This class of medications alters your immune system and prevents interactions between your immune system and inflammatory pathways. These medications are injected or given through intravenous (IV) infusion.
Retinoids reduce skin cell production. Once you stop using them, symptoms of psoriasis will likely return. Side effects include hair loss and lip inflammation.
People who are pregnant or may become pregnant within the next three years shouldn’t take retinoids because of the risk of possible birth defects.
Cyclosporine (Sandimmune) prevents the immune system’s response. This can ease symptoms of psoriasis. It also means you have a weakened immune system, so you may become sick more easily. Side effects include kidney problems and high blood pressure.
Like cyclosporine, methotrexate suppresses the immune system. It may cause fewer side effects when used in low doses. It can cause serious side effects in the long term. Serious side effects include liver damage and reduced production of red and white blood cells.
Learn more about the oral medications used to treat psoriasis.
Diet recommendations for people with psoriasis
Food can’t cure or even treat psoriasis, but eating better might reduce your symptoms. These five lifestyle changes may help ease symptoms of psoriasis and reduce flare-ups:
If you’re overweight, losing weight may reduce the condition’s severity. Losing weight may also make treatments more effective. It’s unclear how weight interacts with psoriasis, so even if your symptoms remain unchanged, losing weight is still good for your overall health.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
Reduce your intake of saturated fats. These are found in animal products like meats and dairy. Increase your intake of lean proteins that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, and shrimp. Plant sources of omega-3s include walnuts, flax seeds, and soybeans.
Avoid trigger foods
Psoriasis causes inflammation. Certain foods cause inflammation too. Avoiding those foods might improve symptoms. These foods include:
- red meat
- refined sugar
- processed foods
- dairy products
Drink less alcohol
Alcohol consumption can increase your risks of a flare-up. Cut back or quit entirely. If you have a problem with your alcohol use, your doctor can help you form a treatment plan.
Consider taking vitamins
Some doctors prefer a vitamin-rich diet to vitamins in pill form. However, even the healthiest eater may need help getting adequate nutrients. Ask your doctor if you should be taking any vitamins as a supplement to your diet.
Living with psoriasis
Life with psoriasis can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can reduce flare-ups and live a healthy, fulfilling life. These three areas will help you cope in the short- and long-term:
Losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet can go a long way toward helping ease and reduce symptoms of psoriasis. This includes eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, and plants. You should also limit foods that may increase your inflammation. These foods include refined sugars, dairy products, and processed foods.
There is anecdotal evidence that eating nightshade fruits and vegetables can trigger psoriasis symptoms. Nightshade fruits and vegetables include tomatoes as well as white potatoes, eggplants, and pepper-derived foods like paprika and cayenne pepper (but not black pepper, which comes from a different plant altogether).
Stress is a well-established trigger for psoriasis. Learning to manage and cope with stress may help you reduce flare-ups and ease symptoms. Try the following to reduce your stress:
People with psoriasis are more likely to experience depression and self-esteem issues. You may feel less confident when new spots appear. Talking with family members about how psoriasis affects you may be difficult. The constant cycle of the condition may be frustrating too.
All of these emotional issues are valid. It’s important you find a resource for handling them. This may include speaking with a professional mental health expert or joining a group for people with psoriasis.