Psoriasis

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

View Psoriasis Slideshow

Quick GuideA Visual Guide to Psoriasis Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

A Visual Guide to Psoriasis Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Are psoriasis shampoos available?

Coal tar shampoos are very useful in controlling psoriasis of the scalp. Using the shampoo daily can be very beneficial adjunctive therapy. There are a variety of shampoos available without a prescription. There is no evidence that one shampoo is superior to another. Generally, the selection of a tar shampoo is simply a matter of personal preference.

What oral medications are available for psoriasis?

Oral medications include methotrexate (Trexall), acitretin (Soriatane), cyclosporine (Neoral), apremilast (Otezla), and others. Oral prednisone (corticosteroid) is generally not used in psoriasis and may cause a disease flare if administered.

  • Acitretin (Soriatane) is an oral drug used for certain types of psoriasis. It is not effective in all types of the disease. It may be used in males and females who are not pregnant and not planning to become pregnant for at least three years. The major side effects include dryness of skin and eyes and temporarily elevated levels of triglycerides and cholesterol (fatty substance) in the blood. Blood tests are generally required before starting this therapy and are needed periodically to monitor triglyceride levels. Patients should not become pregnant while on this drug and usually avoid becoming pregnant for at least three years after stopping this medication.
  • Cyclosporine is a potent immunosuppressive drug used for other medical uses, including organ transplantation. It may be used for severe, difficult-to-treat cases of widespread psoriasis. Improvement and results may be very rapid in onset. It may be hard to get someone off of cyclosporine without flaring their psoriasis. Because of the potential cumulative toxicity, cyclosporine should not be used for more than one to two years for most psoriasis patients. Major possible side effects include kidney and blood-pressure problems.
  • Methotrexate is a common drug used for rheumatoid arthritis, and it has been used effectively for many years in psoriasis. It is usually given in small weekly doses (5 mg-25 mg), either orally or by injection. Blood tests are required before and during therapy. The drug may cause liver and lung damage. Close physician monitoring and monthly to quarterly visits and labs are generally required.
  • FDA has recently approved a new oral drug, apremilast (Otezla), to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and it has an entirely novel mode of action (inhibits enzyme phosphodiesterase 4) and does not require intensive laboratory monitoring.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/14/2016

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