Treatment options for psoriasis include topical and oral medications, light therapy, and at-home remedies, among others. Your treatment plan may include a combination of treatments.

There’s no cure for psoriasis. However, several treatment options exist to soothe skin symptoms, address underlying inflammation, and reduce flare-ups.

Your psoriasis treatment plan will depend on several factors, such as:

  • the severity of your psoriasis
  • how much of your body is affected
  • your type of psoriasis
  • how well your skin responds to initial treatments
  • your overall health
  • your personal preferences

Finding the right treatment or combination of treatments that work best for you may also take trial and error. Here are some of the options you may try to treat psoriasis.

Medications that you apply directly to the skin are called topical treatments. They include:

  • creams
  • ointments
  • lotions
  • gels
  • foams
  • solutions

They’re usually the first line of treatment for people with mild to moderate psoriasis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA). In some cases, treatment will involve combining them with another type of treatment.

Topical corticosteroids

Corticosteroid creams and ointments are the most common treatments for psoriasis. These may help:

  • manage the excessive production of skin cells
  • reduce inflammation
  • relieve symptoms

Lower-dose steroid treatments are available over the counter (OTC), while higher doses may require a prescription.

Speak with a healthcare professional before using topical corticosteroids, as they may have side effects.

Topical retinoids

Tazarotene is a topical retinoid, which is a synthetic vitamin A. This treatment could help normalize growth activity in skin cells and slow the inflammation process, providing symptom relief.

Topical retinoids usually have fewer potential side effects than corticosteroids. However, people who are pregnant or may become pregnant shouldn’t use these due to the risk of birth irregularities.

Vitamin D3 analogues

These are also used as first-line topical treatments for psoriasis. They’re synthetic forms of vitamin D that help slow skin cell growth, reduce inflammation, and remove scales.

A doctor may prescribe calcipotriene (Dovonex) or calcitriol (Rocaltrol) to help treat mild to moderate psoriasis.

Coal tar creams or ointments

Coal tar is a psoriasis treatment that has been used for almost 100 years. Coal tar products like shampoos, creams, and gels could help reduce scaling, itching, and inflammation.

Some types of coal tar can be found OTC, while higher concentrations are available by prescription only.

Medicated shampoos

Medicated and prescription-strength shampoos are available OTC or by prescription to treat scalp psoriasis.

Salicylic acid

This treatment promotes the sloughing of dead skin cells, which reduces scaling. It’s available in OTC and prescription formulas. This topical option can also be used in combination with other treatments.

Phototherapy is a procedure in which skin is carefully exposed to natural or artificial ultraviolet (UV) light.

Ultraviolet light B (UVB) and the combination of psoralen and ultraviolet light A (PUVA) are the two most common types of phototherapy, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).

Speak with a dermatologist about phototherapy before exposing your skin to high doses of UV light. Long-term phototherapy has been associated with skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma.

UVB phototherapy

Artificial light treatments with UVB light may be useful for mild cases of psoriasis. UVB light may help reduce the growth of skin cells affected by psoriasis.

This type of phototherapy can be administered in several ways.

For example, small UVB-emitting light boxes may target specific areas on your hands or feet, while full-body units could target more areas at the same time.

Speak with a healthcare professional about your best option and potential side effects.

Photochemotherapy, or psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA)

Psoralen is an oral medication that increases your skin’s sensitivity to light. This can be combined with UVA light therapy to help treat psoriasis. PUVA works by reducing the production of skin cells.

Other types of phototherapy

Other types of phototherapy may also help treat psoriasis, such as:

  • Sunlight: Natural sunlight may help treat psoriasis, but it’s not as effective as other treatments.
  • Goeckerman therapy: This combines topical coal tar and UVB treatment. Coal tar could make your skin more receptive to UVB light.
  • Laser therapy: This phototherapy may target specific psoriatic patches with concentrated UVB light without affecting the surrounding skin.
  • Pulsed dye laser: This process destroys tiny blood vessels surrounding psoriasis plaques, which could cut off blood flow and help reduce cell growth in that area.

Systemic medications affect your whole body rather than a specific, targeted area.

Traditional systemic drugs are taken orally, such as in pill form. Newer systemic drugs can also be administered by injection or intravenously.

A healthcare professional may prescribe traditional systemic drugs if OTC and at-home remedies aren’t enough to treat psoriasis. These may include:

Oral systemics may help treat psoriasis by reducing inflammation and slowing the production of skin cells.

That said, it’s important to speak with a doctor about the potential side effects of taking systemic drugs. Some of these may include:

  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • increased chance of infections
  • upset stomach
  • temperature sensitivity
  • gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and nausea
  • liver disease
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • higher risk of birth defects
  • some cancers, such as skin cancer

Biologics are a newer type of systemic medication that targets your body’s immune response. These drugs are given by injection or intravenous infusion.

Doctors often prescribe biologics to people with moderate to severe psoriasis who haven’t responded to traditional therapies.

The biologics approved for psoriasis treatment include:

Biosimilars are also newly available. These are similar to brand-name biologic drugs but not an exact copy. They’re expected to have the same effects as the regular drug.

There are currently biosimilars for adalimumab, etanercept, infliximab, and ustekinumab.

Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are a newer type of oral medication that could help treat moderate to severe psoriasis. These work by blocking specific immune system activity that otherwise leads to psoriasis.

Three JAK inhibitors are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat psoriasis:

Some medications may be prescribed off-label to treat psoriasis.

This means the FDA hasn’t approved the drug for psoriasis treatment but for something else. A doctor may still prescribe the drug “off-label” because the FDA regulates the testing and approval of drugs, but not how doctors use drugs to treat their patients.

Medications sometimes prescribed off-label for psoriasis include:

  • 6-thioguanine
  • azathioprine
  • fumaric acid esters
  • hydroxyurea
  • leflunomide
  • mycophenolate mofetil
  • sulfasalazine
  • tacrolimus

It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional about the potential side effects of these drugs. They could help develop a treatment plan that’s right for you, which may include alternatives to these.

Why is it so hard to get rid of psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition, which means that symptoms may flare up throughout your life. There’s currently no cure, but treatment may help you manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

What are psoriasis triggers?

Psoriasis triggers will vary for each person. However, the AADA suggests the most common triggers include stress, low humidity and dry environments, infections, alcohol, smoking, taking certain medications, and having certain underlying health conditions.

How can I cure psoriasis fast?

Psoriasis treatment will depend on several factors, such as the severity of your symptoms. Topical corticosteroids are the most common and effective treatment for psoriasis, according to the AADA. However, a healthcare professional may recommend something else for your condition.

While there’s no cure for psoriasis, many options are available to treat it.

Work with a doctor to discuss which treatment or combination of approaches will work best for your individual circumstances. It’s also important to schedule regular checkups with a doctor to monitor how well your treatment is working and make adjustments as needed.