Psoriasis Treatments

What they are and how they work

There are many different treatment options to help manage and alleviate psoriasis symptoms and your doctor can help you to find the right treatment for you.

Non-prescription topicals

Moisturisers: These help keep the skin lubricated and provide a barrier but will not heal psoriasis on their own. They help reduce cracking, soreness and itching caused by dryness.

Bath/shower solutions (oil, colloidal oatmeal, Epsom salts, Dead Sea salts): Help remove scales and calm inflamed skin caused by dryness.

Keratolytics: Products such as lotions, gels, soaps, medicated shampoos. These help cause the outer layer of the skin to shed, softening and removing scales. A common keratolytic agent is salicylic acid.

Coal tar: Shampoos and solutions that help slow the rapid growth of skin cells, reducing inflammation, itching and scaling.

Topical treatment
Include products that are applied to the skin such as creams, gels or ointments
Prescription topicals: Are usually prescribed by a health care professional before other treatments are considered.

Topical retinoids : Shown to reduce the thickness of psoriasis and reduce signs of scaling.

Topical steroids : Topical treatment to help remove scales, reduce swelling, irritation, redness and itchiness

Vitamin D3 analogues: Act to return the growth of skin cells to normal.

Combined fixed-dose vitamin D3 analogue and steroid: Slows down the development of skin cells and suppresses inflammation.

It is not exactly known how light therapy works, but it is known that natural light and specific forms of ultraviolet light treatments can substantially improve psoriasis.

Prescription phototherapy
Light therapy – either ultraviolet light or sunlight.

Systemic treatments

Systemic treatments affect the entire body and therefore are usually used under prescription for more severe forms of psoriasis. They are typically administered as tablets or injections.

Systemic treatments
Medicine taken orally or through injection. System treatments get their name because they affect the body as a whole and not just a local skin area.
Immunomodulating agents: work by blocking the action of two proteins which can cause the immune system to attack the skin and nails.

TNF alpha blockers: The active ingredient is a monoclonal antibody, a type of protein that recognises and binds to other unique proteins to block a substance known as TNF alpha which has been shown to overproduce in certain diseases like psoriasis.

Immunosuppressants: are used in severe psoriasis and work to suppress or reduce the body’s immune response.

Cytotoxic drugs: work by binding to and inhibiting an enzyme involved in the rapid growth of cells. Also slows the rate of skin cell growth.

Oral retinoids: work to re-establish a more normal pattern of cell growth. This can help decrease scale and thickness of lesions, and decrease inflammation. Used for erythrodermic and pustular types, which cover more than 10% of body surface or is disabling.


It is not exactly known how light therapy works, but it is known that natural light and specific forms of ultraviolet light treatments can substantially improve psoriasis.

The term “phototherapy” describes a family of treatments involving a type of light called ultraviolet radiation, or UV. The most common forms of UV used in treatment are UVA and UVB (both UVA and UVB are often referred to simply as “light therapy”).

UVB treatment can be further divided into broadband and narrowband UVB treatment. It is not exactly known how light therapy works on the skin, but it is known that natural light (which includes UV as a component) and specific forms of ultraviolet (UV) light treatments can substantially improve psoriasis. UV is used to treat moderate-to-severe psoriasis that is resistant to topical creams and ointments. To receive this treatment you wear goggles and enter a special “light box” containing light bulbs that emit UV radiation (not a tanning bed).

PUVA is a combination of UVA exposure and a photosensitizing agent (to be taken separately, either by mouth or by soaking in a bath preparation). Narrowband UVB, or laser phototherapy uses more highly focused UV radiation. Light treatments are often given in a dermatologist's clinic or hospital and administered by an experienced photodermatologist. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment option for you.

Biological treatments
Biologics are a special type of systemic treatment – usually given through injection – that targets a specific part of the immune system.