Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic skin disease that occurs when skin cells grow too rapidly, causing thick, white, or red patches. At times, these patches can be covered in a silvery buildup called “scale.” Approximately 4.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with this disease, which can appear on any part of the body. Here are three effective medications to aid in the treatment of this lifelong ailment.
Dovonex (Generic: Calcipotriene). This synthetic form of Vitamin D can be prescribed by cream, ointment, or liquid (for the scalp.) Symptoms will begin to diminish within 2 weeks of therapy. According to www.psoriasis.org, 70 percent of patients saw significant results after 8 weeks of dovonex therapy (applying twice daily), while 10 percent claimed that symptoms cleared up completely. Dovonex is for topical use, gently applying a thin layer to affected areas and rubbing in thoroughly. For use on the scalp, comb hair first to remove any visible scales, and apply only to affected area. Be sure to keep it away from the forehead and wash your hands after applying.
Some common side effects of taking dovonex include burning, itching, and skin irritation. If you experience a change in intensity, have an allergic reaction, are suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency, or if you have high calcium levels in the blood, consult your physician. Keep product away from the face. Nursing mothers should check with their physician, as it is not yet determined whether Dovonex appears in breast milk. All forms of Dovonex are to be applied once or twice daily. Possible signs of overdose include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and frequent urination. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.
Rheumatrex (Generic: Methotrexate). Although this medication is primarily used to treat leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatrex has been shown effective in severe or disabling cases of psoriasis. Adult dosage is once a week, as opposed to once a day, like other medications. Please follow your doctor’s exact instructions, and keep out of reach of children. Common side effects include chills, fever, abdominal upset or cramping, decreased resistance to infection, fatigue, dizziness, mouth ulcers, and nausea. Hair loss or sun sensitivity may also develop, and your psoriasis patches may have a burning sensation. Methotrexate may also cause serious lung damage, which is why your physician will order the following tests before prescribing it: chest x-ray, blood tests (including liver enzymes, blood cell counts, and kidney function.) Your doctor will also closely monitor your liver function during your treatment. Do not consume alcohol while taking rheumatrex. Because you may also develop an opportunistic infection, notify health care professionals before you receive an immunization, as your body chemistry will be altered while taking Methotrexate. This medication is not suitable for pregnant women, as birth defects could occur. Women of childbearing age should wait at least one full menstrual cycle after treatment has completed before attempting to become pregnant. Nursing women are also advised against this treatment, as the drug is passed through the breast milk. Aspirin, Advil and Naprosyn should all be avoided during treatment, as combining them could increase the toxic effects of the drug. Other medications with contra-indications include: Cisplatin (Platinol), Penicillins, Phenylbutazone, Phenytoin (Dilantin), Probenecid, Retinoid drugs such as Retin-A and Renova, Sulfa drugs such as Bactrim and Gantrisin. Signs of overdose can include diarrhea, mouth ulcers, and difficulty breathing. If you suspect an overdose, contact your physician immediately.
Tazorac (Generic: Tazarotene). This relative of Vitamin A comes in gel form, in two strengths: 0.05% and 0.1%. Both are used for larger areas of patchy skin. Adults are to apply Tazorac in a thin layer over the [dry] affected area once daily, preferably in the evening. Do not use on unaffected skin, or near eyes or mouth. Keep out of reach of children under the age of twelve. Common side effects include burning, irritation, skin peeling, dry skin, stinging, and skin reddening. Discontinue using and contact your doctor if you experience an allergic reaction. Women of childbearing years are strongly advised against taking this drug, as it can cause severe birth defects. Use reliable birth control measures while on tTazorac, and should you accidentally become pregnant during treatment, discontinue immediately and consult with your physician. Tazorac can cause sun sensitivity, so wear protective clothing and sunscreen with at least 15 SPF when outdoors. If you have sunburn, wait until it heals before beginning treatment. At times, extreme cold or wind may irritate skin. Use caution and check with your doctor before combining Tazorac with any of the following medications: Major tranquilizers such as Compazine, Stelazine, and Thorazine, Quinolone antibiotics such as Cipro, Floxin, and Noroxin, Sulfa drugs such as Bactrim and Septra, Tetracycline antibiotics such as Achromycin V, Minocin, and Vibramycin, Thiazide-type water pills such as Dyazide and HydroDIURIL. Signs of Tazorac overdose are similar to that of an oral overdose of Vitamin A and include dizziness, dry or cracked lips, abdominal discomfort, headache, facial flushing (red cheeks,) vomiting, and lack of coordination (clumsiness.) Contact your physician if you experience any of these symptoms.
A normal skin cell matures and falls off the body’s surface in 28 to 30 days. But a psoriatic skin cell takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of falling off (shedding), the cells pile up and form the lesions. Psoriasis is not contagious, but can look quite unappealing if the affected areas are open. Check with your doctor if you notice these patches, or any skin abnormality. The sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and get it under control.