Go to AAD Home
Donate For AAD Members Search

Go to AAD Home

Psoriasis treatment: Synthetic vitamin D

Also known as vitamin D analogues

This prescription medicine has been used in Europe since the 1990s to treat psoriasis. Later, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for psoriasis. 

Why dermatologists prescribe synthetic vitamin D to treat psoriasis

Synthetic vitamin D can:

  • Slow rapidly growing skin cells

  • Flatten thick psoriasis

  • Remove scale

  • Treat nail psoriasis

  • Treat scalp psoriasis

Safety and effectiveness

  • Synthetic vitamin D is considered safe for most patients, including children

  • It clears psoriasis in some patients, including patients who have scalp psoriasis

  • Most people notice an improvement after using it for two weeks

  • If a patient needs stronger medicine, synthetic vitamin D can be safely combined with a strong corticosteroid

Studies show that using both tends to be more effective than using either medication alone. 

  • Using both synthetic vitamin D and a corticosteroid can also reduce the possible side effects that come with using a strong corticosteroid

  • The combination can be used for much longer than a strong corticosteroid alone

How to use

It is applied to the psoriasis. Most people apply synthetic vitamin D twice a day.

Use as directed

To avoid possible side effects, it’s important to use this medicine exactly as directed. Using it for longer than directed can lead to serious side effects.

applying lotion to arm

Possible side effects

When applying synthetic vitamin D to treat psoriasis, the most common side effects are: 

  • Irritated skin

  • Burning

  • Itching

  • Swelling

  • Peeling

  • Dryness

  • Redness

These side effects tend to go away as patients continue to use the medicine.  Side effects that are more serious include a medical condition called hypercalcemia. This means you have too much calcium in your blood, which can weaken your bones, cause kidney stones, or affect your heart and brain. This risk is low when synthetic vitamin D is used as directed.

What to discuss with your dermatologist

During your next dermatology appointment, be sure to mention if you have any of the following:

  • Side effects

  • Worsening psoriasis

  • You fail to see any change after using the medicine for four to six weeks

Getty Images

Cordoro KM. “Management of childhood psoriasis.” Adv Dermatol. 2008;24:125-69.

Feldman SR. “Treatment of psoriasis.” UpToDate 2015 Jul, Wolters Kluwer Health. Last accessed November 2015.

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.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Taclonex (calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate) ointment.” Posted December 2014. Last accessed January 2016.