There is no cure for psoriasis, but consistent treatment can decrease the build-up of scale and provide symptomatic relief. Treatment depends on several factors: the patient’s age, the type of psoriasis, the sites and extent of skin involvement, and associated medical disorders (like AIDS). The degree of psoriasis can range from mild to severe and is usually measured by percentage of total body involvement. Five topical agents are used: topical steroids, topical tar and anthralin preparations, calcipotriene (Vitamin D derivative), tazarotene (Vitamin A derivative), and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Four systemic agents include: psoralen with Ultraviolet A light (PUVA), methotrexate, acitretin, and cyclosporine. Topical drugs affect the local area on which they are applied (i.e., the skin surface), while systemic drugs are usually either taken by mouth or injected and affect the entire body.
Like many other skin diseases, psoriasis can be socially stigmatizing and can have devastating effects on self- esteem. The famous writer John Updike who was diagnosed with psoriasis at an early age, chronicles his struggles with the disease in his memoir, Self- Consciousness: "The name of the disease, spiritually speaking, is Humiliation." However, after enrolling in a PUVA program, the writer watches with anticipation as his skin fights to suppress the disease--- and notes the changes that occur inside of him as well.
Reviewed by: Michael Fuller, MD