Unlike treatment for strep throat, which is typically an antibiotic, any psoriasis treatment must be tailored not only to the individual’s type of psoriasis, but also to his or her age, overall health, occupation, personal motivation, and available resources.
That is, doctors must focus on the patient’s expectations of treatment, rather than simply the amount of body surface involved. Additionally, treatments must be calibrated to what is possible, and not merely what a patient expects. Psoriasis sufferers expecting to be pain-free during an acute phase of psoriasis have unreasonable expectations.
That said, there are three basic components of any psoriasis treatment plan:
Topical (skin) treatments
Phototherapy (light therapy)
Systemic therapy, or medicine
Older topical psoriasis compounds include coal tar and salicylate, or aspirin-based ointments. Coal tar, in combination with UV-B (short-band ultraviolet light), still provides remission in 80 percent of psoriasis cases.
Newer psoriasis topicals include corticosteroids (which contain prednisone), and a retinol-based, vitamin A compound called tazarotene. Doctors may also use topical or hypodermic forms of methotrexate and cyclosporine. The first suppresses the extreme cell growth that is the hallmark of psoriasis. The latter is an immune suppressant: psoriasis is an immune disorder.
Doctors also rely on Anthralin (the bark of the Araroba tree), and vitamin D-3, a compound the human body makes from sunlight. The value of D-3 in treating psoriasis was first recognized when medical professionals documented the fact that psoriasis is almost unknown among people living near Earth’s equator.
Combining psoralen drugs which increase sensitivity to sunlight with UV-B light therapy has been shown to provide relief to more than 85 percent of psoriasis patients, but only after 20 to 30 sessions.
Adapting narrow-spectrum UV light to lasers, doctors treating psoriasis are able to target small, individual areas instead of an entire section of skin. More recently, a single dose of an experimental antibody that blocks an immune signaling protein involved in psoriasis has shown dramatic improvement in a cohort of 31 psoriasis patients.