Topical psoriasis treatments: What about side effects?

The side effects of a topical medication depend on which medication you're using, the length of time it is used, your general health and underlying medical conditions, and whether you are using the medication appropriately.

Some side effects can occur with most topical medications. The most common of these is skin irritation. It's also possible to have an allergic reaction to the medication or its ingredients.

Other side effects are more specific to the medication itself. Some occur when the medication is used improperly or the dose is too high. Others can occur even when the medication is being used properly at the recommended doses.

Here are some of the most common side effects:

Common side effects of topical psoriasis treatments

Vitamin D derivatives (calcipotriol, calcitriol, etc)

Normal use

Skin irritation, allergic reactions

High doses / inappropriate use

With high doses: increased calcium in the blood (the doctor will keep an eye on this using blood tests)

Corticosteroids (stronger corticosteroids are more likely to have side effects than weaker corticosteroids)

Normal use

Thinning of the skin, stretch marks, redness, and easy bruising
If used on the face: pimples, redness, or visible blood vessels

High doses / inappropriate use

If absorbed through the skin (more likely with high doses, strong corticosteroids, using an airtight dressing, long treatment times, and treating large body areas): moon face (a rounding out of the face), increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, weight changes, loss of blood sugar control, or unusual hair growth

Salicylic acid

Normal use

Skin irritation or stinging

High doses / inappropriate use

If absorbed into the body (more likely with long treatment times, large body areas, or airtight dressings): ringing in the ears, confusion, nausea, or vomiting

Tazarotene

Normal use

Skin itching, redness, burning, and irritation; increased sun sensitivity

High doses / inappropriate use

With higher doses: skin pain, skin peeling, rash, dry skin, stinging, and high triglyceride levels (a type of fat found in the blood)

Coal tar

Normal use

Irritation of skin and hair follicles; staining of clothing and hair; increased sun sensitivity

High doses / inappropriate use

With very high doses (much higher than normally used): increased risk of skin cancer

Anthralin

Normal use

Skin irritation or redness; staining of skin, clothing, or hair

High doses / inappropriate use

No known long-term side effects

Some medications, such as corticosteroids and salicylic acid, can only be used over a small body area or for a limited period of time to protect from the side effects they would cause if absorbed into the blood. The maximum time period depends on many factors, including the size of the area to be treated, whether airtight dressings are used, and the person's age and general health. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see how long you should be using your topical medication.

This is not a complete list of all side effects caused by topical psoriasis medications. Some people may experience side effects not listed above. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any symptoms that worry you.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Psoriasis-Spotlight-on-Topical-Treatment