How Effective Are Corticosteroids for Psoriasis?

Madeleine A.

Corticosteroids for psoriasis are effective in relieving inflammation, proliferation of skin cells, and itching. These drugs are prescribed in various strengths, depending upon extent and severity of the condition. The health care provider will determine whether corticosteroid ointments, creams, or oral preparations are best suited for the individual's condition. Generally, topical creams or ointments are prescribed first, before oral corticosteroid are introduced.

Psoriasis affects the head and body.
Psoriasis affects the head and body.

Though individuals frequently report partial or complete resolution of symptoms when taking corticosteroids for psoriasis, these medications can cause significant side effects. Topical corticosteroid preparations can cause easy bruising, pigmentation changes, skin thinning, and stretch marks. Also, skin redness, local itching, burning and skin irritation can occur, however, these side effects quickly resolve after treatment is discontinued.

Corticosteroids may cause stretch marks.
Corticosteroids may cause stretch marks.

Oral corticosteroids for psoriasis can cause weight gain, increased appetite, excessive thirst, and swelling of the face and extremities. Taking oral corticosteroids for psoriasis is not typically recommended in most cases, however, when they are prescribed, they should not be abruptly stopped by the individual himself. If the individual abruptly stops taking his oral steroids, the psoriasis can return more aggressively than ever. This is referred to as rebound psoriasis. People taking corticosteroids for psoriasis should be gradually weaned off the medication by their health care providers.

A condition known as exfoliative psoriasis can occur after prolonged use of corticosteroid ointments or oral tablets, taken in high dosages. This condition causes the psoriasis to proliferate or spread throughout the entire body. If psoriasis spreads to other parts of the body, the health care provider needs to notified at once to evaluate the condition and devise an appropriate treatment plan. If the psoriatic rash spreads to the eye area, corticosteroid cream should not be used. If the cream gets into or around the eyes, the individual is at risk for glaucoma or cataracts.

It is important for the health care provider to explain to his patients that even though corticosteroids for psoriasis help clear the plaques effectively, they do not cure the condition. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, and once it is diagnosed, the individual typically has it for the rest of his life. People with psoriasis may be at an increased risk for other medical conditions, so it is prudent to discuss this information with the health care provider. Other medications used to treat psoriasis include anti-inflammatory medications, special skin washes and cleaners, and biologic medications.

Psoriasis on the scalp may produce unsightly flakes.
Psoriasis on the scalp may produce unsightly flakes.

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