Psoriasis is a non-contagious, chronic skin condition that stems from a faulty immune system. Because psoriasis has no definitive cure, there are many treatments for psoriasis that are currently available. Conventional drugs and treatments often come with dangerous risks and side effects. Systemic psoriasis drugs are effective but have heavy consequences-it is up to the patient to weigh the possibilities.

Systemic psoriasis drugs are used to treat moderate to severe forms of psoriasis. They are body-wide drugs that are taken orally or injected. Three of the most popular oral systemic drugs for psoriasis are methotrexate, cyclosporine, and acitretin.

Psoriasis and Methotrexate

Methotrexate is an immunosuppressive drug used to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. It is effective in suppressing the rapid growth of skin cells and also provides relief from psoriatic arthritis. Methotrexate is not compatible with patients who have liver disease, ulcers, kidney problems, or low white blood cell count. It is also not recommended for women who plan to conceive in the next few years, as it can lead to birth defects. Long-term side effects of methotrexate may include liver damage, lymphoma, bone marrow toxicity, and an increased risk for infection due to a reduction in white blood cells.

Psoriasis and Cyclosporine

Cyclosporine is a drug used to suppress the immune system. It inhibits certain cells and can provide quick psoriasis relief in the short-term. Cyclosporine is usually taken orally in the form of capsules, and doses must be on schedule. Psoriasis patients who are also being treated with light therapy or coal tar may develop skin cancer when taking cyclosporine. Other risks from cyclosporine include potential kidney damage and the development of hypertension; Thus, frequent kidney checks and blood pressure monitoring are critical. Side effects may include headache, high cholesterol, increased hair growth, skin sensitivity, stomach ache, fatigue, and joint pain. Cyclosporine, although effective in the short-term, is not an ideal long-term treatment for controlling psoriasis as it is not recommended to be used longer than a year.

Psoriasis and Soriatane (Acitretin)

Soriatane, also known as acitretin, is an oral retinoid. Oral retinoids contain vitamin A, which has been shown to be effective in treating psoriasis. Soriatane capsules are taken orally with food. Relief from symptoms may be slow and gradual; often two to four months may be needed to see improvement. It is not recommended as a treatment for psoriasis patients who have liver or kidney problems, high triglycerides, or allergies towards retinoids. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also stay away from Soriatane, as it can cause serious birth defects up to 3 years after stopping dosage. Other possible side effects include hair loss, bleeding gums, increased sensitivity to sunlight, depression, thoughts of self-mutilation, joint pain, and liver issues.

Although these three medications are effective for controlling psoriasis in the short-term, there are many risks patients need to seriously consider before using systemic drugs for psoriasis. There are many other treatments available for psoriasis that are both natural and effective.