Our skin is one of the first things that people notice about us. It’s our largest organ, and much of it is on full display for the world to see. When our skin’s health is compromised, it’s difficult to ignore, especially when the symptoms are visible like redness, flaking, darkening, or even pimples.
One common skin condition is psoriasis, which isn’t as simple to treat as other skin concerns. Psoriasis can be tricky because little is known about what triggers an outbreak. It could be anything from a food sensitivity, to stress, to vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Not knowing for certain what causes psoriasis makes treating it a bit of a hit-or-miss situation.
Normally, new cells grow to restore the skin’s outer layers as they shed; however, with psoriasis, new skin cells move to the skin’s surface in days rather than in weeks, which is the normal rate. With all the cells growing on top of each other, raised patches begin to form over the body. The visible appearance of psoriasis on the skin usually takes the form of red, blotchy patches with white scales over top. The irritated skin is usually dry, itchy and can sometimes be painful, especially when the scales are scratched off.
There are some options for treating psoriasis, including products applied topically, phototherapy, and oral medications. Two popular methods of treatment for psoriasis that have been proven to work are vitamin D and corticosteroids (artificial steroids that imitate natural hormones). While you can take corticosteroids orally, topical creams are commonly prescribed to treat psoriasis. When applied to the skin, corticosteroids can lessen inflammation and itching, while also controlling the rapid growth of skin cells.
Although corticosteroids are effective, they can cause a number of side effects in some individuals with psoriasis. The stronger the steroid is, the greater chance you may experience side effects, including thinning of skin (stretch marks), itching, burning, and the return of psoriasis after treatment. As well, a strong steroid face cream for psoriasis treatment can lead to other skin conditions, like acne or rosacea. There’s even a potential link between potent steroid face cream and the development of vision problems, like glaucoma or cataracts. It is important to discuss with your doctor if corticosteroids are right for you.
Another treatment option for mild cases of psoriasis is topical creams that contain vitamin D, specifically “calcipotriene.” This form of vitamin D is applied topically, and is believed to reduce the severity and duration of a psoriasis outbreak. Calcipotriene also reduces inflammation and scaling, and helps inhibit cell growth, which is important in treating psoriasis.
The performances of these two psoriasis treatments were recently reviewed. Researchers found that vitamin D and corticosteroids were more effective as a combination treatment than as individual treatments. Researchers also found that the vitamin D was much less effective than using potent corticosteroids as treatment for scalp psoriasis. However, it’s important to note that most of the trials did not report on whether long-term use of corticosteroids would increase the risk for permanent thinning of the skin, a condition known as skin dermal atrophy.
Speak to your doctor about determining the right treatment option for your case of psoriasis.
Mason, A.R., et al., “Topical treatments for chronic plaque psoriasis,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009; 15, doi: 10.1002/14651858.