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Switching Psoriasis Treatments

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI on January 18, 2017Written by Kimberly Holland on January 18, 2017
switching psoriasis medication

Changing treatments isn’t unheard of for people living with psoriasis. In fact, it’s quite common. A treatment that worked one month might not work the next, and the month after that, the new treatment might stop working, too.

If you have moderate to severe psoriasis, your doctor should be routinely seeking feedback from you. They’ll want to know if treatments seem as effective as before, if you’re experiencing fewer side effects, and if you’re finding symptom relief as quickly as you did the first time you tried your medicine. If you’re not satisfied, your doctor should be prepared to help navigate you through the process of changing psoriasis remedies.

Switching psoriasis treatments is routine

Switching psoriasis treatments is common practice for individuals with the skin condition. In many cases, changing medicines improves results and outcomes for people with psoriasis. The more quickly you can treat symptoms, the less likely you are to have cumulative effects of the disease that can greatly impact your life.

In addition, controlling symptoms helps prevent other conditions or diseases that sometimes occur with psoriasis. These complications include:

Switching treatments is primarily undertaken to help patients experience fewer symptoms and clearer skin in a shorter period of time. Thanks to advances in psoriasis treatments, many doctors will suggest switching medications if they suspect a different regimen will help you achieve a more favorable outcome faster. If your treatment plan already clears your skin well but you just want something that works more quickly, switching treatments may not be necessary.

How will I know if my psoriasis treatment has stopped working?

Currently, doctors aim to find a psoriasis treatment plan that reduces symptoms, is well tolerated, and clears up lesions as much as possible. If these aren’t the results you’re seeing from your medication, it may be time to consider a different course of treatment.

Most doctors recommend a relatively brief trial period. If in a two- to three-month window the treatment isn’t producing any improved signs, it may be time to adjust treatments.

That being said, certain treatments, such as biologics or systemic medicines, may need more time. Set a timeframe with your doctor that will allow you both to know if a treatment is working. If after that period you don’t see any changes, it’s time to try something else.

Challenges to consider

While the treatment you’re currently using may not be as effective as you hoped, changing psoriasis treatments isn’t without its challenges. Here are a few issues you may face while trying to find the best treatment option for you:

Optimal results may not be realistic: Treatment aims to reduce and clear as much of your skin as possible. However, that’s not always a reality for some individuals with psoriasis. While inflammation may subside and lesions may disappear, you could still experience red, inflamed spots. Set realistic goals for treatment outcomes with your doctor.

Symptoms may get worse: There’s no guarantee the new treatment will be better. In fact, it may not be effective at all. That means you may experience more symptoms or worse symptoms during a flare-up than you did before you tried this new medicine.

You have to give treatments time: If your treatment goals aren’t met in two to three months, it’s time to consider something else. Some biologics require a bit more time to see results, but don’t postpone switching medicines for too long. You may prolong symptoms or actually make symptoms worse.

Speak up for yourself

If you’re reluctant to talk with your doctor, you may be making your condition worse. Staying on an ineffective medicine for too long may keep symptoms active longer than they have to be. That can aggravate your already sensitive skin and make future psoriasis flare-ups worse. What’s more, you may increase your risk for complications from psoriasis.

If you think you’re ready to try a different plan or you’re certain a treatment is no longer working for you, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Make an appointment with your dermatologist or the doctor supervising your psoriasis treatment. Relay to your doctor symptoms you have, how many flare-ups you’ve had in recent weeks, and how long each increased period of activity is lasting. Discuss what treatments are available to you.

If you’re currently only using a topical treatment, your doctor may suggest a more potent topical treatment. They may also suggest a combination therapy that includes both a topical treatment and a systemic medicine, or biologic. Light therapy is also an option that is frequently combined with other treatment options for better results.

The need for open discussion

Part of a healthy doctor-patient relationship is having the ability to talk openly about options, realities, and possibilities. You should be able to trust and respect your doctor’s opinion.

However, if you feel your doctor is dismissing your concerns or isn’t willing to help you find a treatment plan that works better, seek a second opinion or a new doctor entirely.

Ultimately, your doctor may make a decision they feel is best even if it’s not entirely what you’d hoped for or suggested. As long as you feel confident in the plan and know your doctor would be open to additional changes if a treatment doesn’t work, you’ll be in a good place to continue working through this process.

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