Cure for psoriasis?

Originally Published: May 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 2, 2007
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Dear Alice,

For the past few years, I have had psoriasis. What makes my condition particularly annoying is that it only seems to be affecting my genitals. While I can apply an ointment to make outbreaks disappear, I must apply a cortisone medication every day, and I have been told that doing so may cause the skin to thin. I have talked about this problem with two doctors, and neither one agreed on the same treatment. One claimed that a certain medication may cause thinning of the skin, while another claimed that the particular area involved can take such a treatment without ill effects while benefiting from a more potent lotion (which makes the skin heal faster).

Several years ago I read that a cure for psoriasis is on the brink. Where is it? Have you heard of such a rumor? I cannot say that I am "suffering" from this skin disorder at present, but is there a way to prevent it from spreading elsewhere in the future?

Hoping for clear skin

Dear Hoping for clear skin,

Psoriasis is still somewhat of a mystery to health care providers and researchers. One thing that is fairly certain is that it is a genetic condition that involves the immune system; it is not a bacterial infection and can't be spread from person to person. Also, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, cortisone treatment does cause skin to thin, as do all other steroid medications. When considering different treatments, health care providers and patients must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of specific approaches, and then determine which is best for the patient. Any medical regimen needs to be closely supervised by a dermatologist or other medical provider.

In the past few years, health care providers have developed new light treatments, oral medications, and biologics (medicines made from living organisms) for psoriasis. However, none are curative; they just treat the symptoms. Biologics are of particular interest nowadays because they work against the disease in its early stages and offer advantages over other treatments. Whether or not these new treatments are effective for someone who has a localized case needs to be discussed with a dermatologist or primary care provider.

As for prevention, there is no certain technique for preventing psoriasis from appearing. Psoriasis has no predictable pattern — one could get new spots or patches at any time. For some people, certain triggers bring about a flare of psoriasis: stress, particular types of infections, injury to the skin, certain medications, and weather. Making note of certain triggers and how they affect you may help you manage the condition.

While it's difficult to predict when or if there'll be a cure for psoriasis, researchers do know much more about its causes and the involvement of certain cells. Currently, research is being done to find a cure. In the meantime, we'll keep our fingers crossed.

If you are a Columbia student, you may visit Health Services at Columbia to talk about treatment options and determine if you need to visit a dermatologist. Call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to make an appointment.

For more information about psoriasis, you can contact the National Psoriasis Foundation at 1.800.723.9166.

Alice