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Understanding Psoriasis Medications (cont.)

Topical Medications for Psoriasis


Clobetasol (Temovate), triamcinolone (Aristocort), fluocinolone (Synalar), and betamethasone (Diprolene) are examples of commonly prescribed corticosteroids.

  • How corticosteroids work: Corticosteroids decrease skin inflammation and itching.
  • Who should not use these medications: Individuals with corticosteroid allergy or skin infections should not use corticosteroids.
  • Use: Apply a thin film to affected skin areas. These creams or ointments are usually applied two times a day, but dosage depends on severity of the psoriasis.
  • Drug or food interactions: No interactions have been reported with topical use.
  • Adverse effects: Corticosteroids may cause adverse effects to the body if used over large areas. They can also cause local thinning of the skin. Do not use for long periods of time. It is best not to put bandages over the treated skin unless directed by the physician because too much of the medicine may be absorbed into the body.

Creams and Ointments Related to Vitamin D

Calcipotriene (Dovonex) is a relative of vitamin D-3 that is used to treat moderate psoriasis.

  • How vitamin D medications work: Calcipotriene slows the production of excess skin cells.
  • Who should not use these medications: Individuals with the following conditions should not take calcipotriene:
  • Use: Apply to affected skin area two times a day. This medication is available as a cream, ointment, or solution.
  • Drug or food interactions: Topical salicylic acid inactivates calcipotriene. Do not use creams or ointments containing these medicines at the same time.
  • Adverse effects: Do not use this medicine on the face, around the eyes, or inside the nose or mouth. Do not use more than 100 grams per week (one large tube of cream or ointment). This agent may cause skin irritation and is impractical and expensive for widespread application. It is frequently supplied as a combination drug with a topical steroid (Taclonex) to diminish its irritation potential.

Tar-Containing Preparations

  • Coal tar (DHS Tar, Doak Tar, Theraplex T) is a complex mixture of thousands of different substances extracted from the coal during the carbonization process. Coal tar is applied topically and is available as shampoo, bath oil, ointment, cream, gel, lotion, ointment, paste, and other types of preparations. Sometimes coal tar is combined with UV-B light therapy.
  • How coal tar works: The tar decreases itching and slows the production of excess skin cells.
  • Who should not use these medications: Individuals with the following conditions should not use tar-containing preparations:
  • Use: Apply coal tar preparations daily for severe psoriasis. Apply two times per week for mild psoriasis. Rub the medicine on the skin or scalp and rinse thoroughly. Repeat, leave on for five minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.
  • Drug or food interactions: No interactions have been reported.
  • Adverse effects: Avoid contact with eyes, inside the nose or mouth, or open wounds. Stop using if the skin becomes more irritated or if symptoms are not reduced. Coal tar tends to stain clothing and linens and can have an undesirable odor. This medicine may cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun than normal. Coal tar may also cause inflammation of hair follicles.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/14/2016

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