Ways to Manage Symptoms and Treat Psoriasis
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2023
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes skin symptoms. People with psoriasis develop areas of raised, reddened skin called plaques due to inflammation. Psoriasis is a chronic condition that has no cure.1
Fortunately, several treatment options can control symptoms. Many people with psoriasis can manage the condition well. You will work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. The plan may include:1,2
The right treatment plan for you will depend on many factors and may include combinations of treatments. Talk to your doctor before changing any part of your treatment plan.1
How are medicines used to treat psoriasis?
Most people with psoriasis treat symptoms with at least one prescription drug. Some people use them more often during symptom flare-ups. Drugs for psoriasis can be topical or systemic.1
Topical drugs are applied to areas of skin affected by psoriasis symptoms. Common over-the-counter topical drugs include:1,3
- Moisturizers and emollients
- Salicylic acid products
- Coal tar products
- Itch relief products
Stronger topical treatments are available by prescription. These include:1,4
- Topical corticosteroids, such as Bryhali® lotion (halobetasol propionate)
- Dovonex® (calcipotriene)
- Vectical (calcitriol)
- Taclonex®, Enstilar® (calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate)
- Wynzora Cream® (calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate)
- Tazorac® (tazarotene)
- Duobrii® (halobetasol propionate and tazarotene)
- Protopic® (tacrolimus)
- Elidel® (pimecrolimus)
- Zithranol (anthralin)
- Vtama® cream (tapinarof)
- Zoryve® cream (roflumilast)
Systemic medicines are stronger drugs that work throughout the body. They are taken by mouth or injection. People with moderate to severe psoriasis may need them to control symptoms. Systemic drugs turn down your immune system.1,5
Examples of systemic drugs used to treat psoriasis include:1,5,6
- Jylamvo® and others (methotrexate)
- Xeljanz® (tofacitinab)
- Rinvoq® (upadacitinib)
- Soriatane® (acitretin)
- Sandimmune® (cyclosporine)
- Otezla® (apremilast)
- Sotyku™ (deucravacitinib)
Biologic drugs, or biologics, are a type of systemic medicine made from living cells. They are given by injection or intravenous (IV) infusion. They target a specific part of the immune system to help control symptoms.1,7
Examples of biologics used to treat psoriasis include:1,7
Biosimilars are a type of biologic therapy. Each biosimilar drug is very similar to an already approved biologic. Biosimilars approved to treat psoriasis include:1,8
- Humira biosimilars: Amjevita®, Cyltezo®, Hyrimoz®, and others
- Remicade biosimilars: Inflectra®, Renflexis™, Avsola®, and Ixifi™
- Enbrel biosimilars: Erelzi™ and Eticovo®
- Stelara biosimilar: Wezlana™
Biosimilars have the same boxed warnings as their original drug. Some of these biosimilars may not yet be available. Ask your doctor whether a biosimilar might be right for you.8
All drugs can cause side effects, and side effects can vary depending on the drug you are taking. Some drugs listed on this page have a boxed warning, the strictest warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before starting any new medicine for psoriasis.
How is light therapy used to treat psoriasis?
Light therapy is also called phototherapy. It is a common treatment option for people with plaque psoriasis. It involves exposing your skin to ultraviolet light for a specific amount of time. This can slow skin cell growth and reduce inflammation.1,9
Types of phototherapy treatments include:1,9
- Ultraviolet B (UVB) light therapy
- Psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) light therapy
- Excimer laser therapy
- Saltwater baths combined with sunlight or UVB
The right light therapy for you and how often you receive it will depend on several personal factors. Some light therapies are done in a doctor’s office. Others can be performed at home. Serious side effects and risks are possible. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of light therapy.1,9
How can lifestyle changes improve psoriasis symptoms?
Certain lifestyle changes have benefits for people with psoriasis. For example, dietary changes may help improve overall health and lower the risk of other health conditions. Gluten-free or heart-healthy diets may reduce symptoms for some people. But no single diet works for everyone.1,10,11
Physical activity can also help manage psoriasis. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that will work for you.1,10,12
What home remedies are used to treat psoriasis?
Home remedies can provide short-term relief from psoriasis symptoms. Home remedies usually include topical products such as:3
- Emollients and oils, which can hydrate the skin and soften plaques
- An occlusive dressing, which can help topical treatments get further into the skin
- A daily bath or shower with certain additives
What complementary and integrative therapies are used to treat psoriasis?
Complementary and integrative therapies are healthcare practices that combine conventional medicine with non-conventional treatment methods.
Examples of specific complementary therapies for psoriasis may include:9,13
- Herbal remedies
- Dietary supplements
There is not much evidence that these therapies reduce psoriasis symptoms. But they may reduce stress and inflammation. And effective stress management techniques can help you cope with the burdens of psoriasis. Your doctor can help you find complementary options that fit into your treatment plan.13
Before beginning treatment for psoriasis, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.