Psoriasis treatment: Corticosteroids you apply to the skin
Corticosteroids come in different strengths, ranging from very mild to extremely strong. You can buy a very mild corticosteroid without a prescription. Stronger corticosteroids require a prescription.
Why dermatologists prescribe corticosteroids to treat psoriasis
If you have mild or moderate psoriasis, a corticosteroid that you apply to your skin may be all the medicine you need. When applied to psoriasis, this medicine can:
Reduce the redness, swelling, scaling, and itch—and clear the psoriasis
Slow how quickly your skin cells grow
Even if you have severe psoriasis, a corticosteroid that you apply to your skin may be part of your treatment plan. You would use this medicine along with other psoriasis treatment to help treat thick or stubborn areas of psoriasis.
Safety and effectiveness
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several corticosteroids to treat psoriasis
#1 medicine used to treat psoriasis in adults and children
Used for decades to treat psoriasis
Risk of side effects is low when used as directed by your dermatologist
Follow dermatologist's recommendation
For best results, use this medicine only on the areas of your body that your dermatologist recommends.
Using a strong corticosteroid on thin skin, such as on your face, could lead to spider veins, stretchmarks, and other side effects. Dermatologists know which corticosteroids you can safely apply to different areas of the body. Most people quickly see results when they apply a corticosteroid twice a day for a short time. A corticosteroid can reduce the redness, swelling, itch, and scale. It may even get rid of the psoriasis.
How to use
You apply this medicine to the psoriasis (or skin that often has psoriasis). For best results, use this medicine exactly as prescribed by your dermatologist. This means you should use the medicine:
As often as instructed
Only on the skin that your dermatologist recommends
Only for as long as your dermatologist prescribes
Different types of corticosteroids work best in different areas. Applying a very strong corticosteroid to your face or groin could cause side effects, such as thinning skin and stretch marks. Following directions will help you get the best results and reduce the risk of developing side effects.
Possible side effects
Side effects are more common when someone uses a corticosteroid improperly. Improper use includes applying the medicine for longer than directed or using it to treat skin that you weren’t told to treat.
Possible side effects include:
Seeing darker or lighter patches of skin is expected as psoriasis clears. Dermatologists call this “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation” or PIH. This is expected and not a side effect. The patches will go away.
What to discuss with your dermatologist
During your next appointment, you should tell your dermatologist if you:
Experience any side effect
Feel uncomfortable using the medicine
See the same amount of psoriasis (or worsening psoriasis) after four to six weeks of using the medicine
Cordoro KM. “Management of childhood psoriasis.” Adv Dermatol. 2008;24:125-69.
Menter A, Korman NJ, et al. “Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Section 3. Guidelines of care for the management and treatment of psoriasis with topical therapies.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2009;60:643-59.
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Supported in part by Novartis.