Cure for psoriasis?

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. For those who are unfamiliar, psoriasis is a skin condition that causes patches and scales (which are often painful and itchy) to develop on the skin due to the rapid production of skin cells, causing a build up. One thing that is more certain is that it's a chronic condition that involves the immune system; it's not a bacterial infection and can't be spread from person to person. However, it can develop anywhere on the body. Finding effective treatments for you can help to prevent this spread. Also, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, topical cortisone treatment does cause skin to thin. When considering different treatments, health care providers and patients must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of specific approaches, and then determine which is most appropriate for the patient. It's recommended that any medical regimen be closely supervised by a dermatologist or other medical provider.

Overall, there are a number of treatments available using light (treatment that uses natural light or artificial ultraviolet rays), medications, or topical ointments, and these may be selected based on the severity of the condition or by what has or hasn't worked previously. 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. Mayo Clinic has even more about treatments and drugs for the condition. Additionally, although not a cure, some people find that taking some do-it-yourself (DIY) steps at home can help, such as taking baths, moisturizing, small amounts of sunlight, and avoiding alcohol consumption. 

As for prevention, there's no certain technique for preventing psoriasis from appearing. Psoriasis has no predictable pattern — a person 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, smoking, 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 will be a cure for psoriasis, researchers are continuing to learn more about its causes and the involvement of certain cells. Currently, more research is being done to find a cure. For more information about the condition, you can check out the National Psoriasis Foundation. If you don't feel as though you're getting the answers that you're looking for from the providers that you've already seen, you could seek out another medical opinion. If you haven't already, it may be helpful to seek out a provider who specializes in psoriasis (e.g., a dermatologist with psoriasis as an area of expertise). This may help you get closer to finding a treatment that works for you. 

Last updated May 31, 2019
Originally published Apr 30, 1994

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