About Psoriasis: Treatment and Prevention

Psoriasis may be incurable, but individual flare-ups can usually be swiftly dealt with. There's a wide range of treatments available for all types and degrees of psoriasis.

Many new patients are surprised or skeptical when told to go and stand in the sunlight, but it's a fact that natural light is one of the simplest and fastest ways to clear up an attack of psoriasis. There's the added benefit of knowing that the price of the treatment will never go up. Remember to go easy - sunburn can cause a flare-up at the burn site. It is important to speak to a doctor before trying any light therapy.

In order to avoid sunburns, many dermatologists have UVB "sunbeds" in their offices. UVB radiation is about 1,000 times more energetic than the UVA used in commercial tanning salons (which isn't as safe). Repeated studies show no evidence of increased skin cancer rates in people who have used this method to treat psoriasis. In any case, the dose is lower than you would get in an afternoon at the beach.

Some people use commercial UVA sunbeds seeking the same effect, but their inflammation rarely clears up. Clinical studies of UVA used in combination with a photosensitizing drug found the technique, known as PUVA, to be more dangerous than UVB.

Moisturizers are vital for psoriasis. They won't clear it up, but they'll reduce pain and itching, and may prevent flare-ups. It is also important to drink plenty of water.

There are dozens of creams and lotions people can apply. Coal tar has been used to great effect for centuries. It's not pleasant, especially when you have to leave it on overnight. It probably makes the skin more sensitive to UV light, and the two are often prescribed together. Coal tar is available in non-prescription strength.

Other medications a doctor may call for include salicylic acid (an aspirin-type compound), anthralin, vitamin D3, and steroids. These are often combined. Vitamin D3 is different from the vitamin D found in commercial supplements. If all else fails, drugs normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis can be used for psoriasis.

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