How psoriasis treatment works

Scientists don't know exactly what causes psoriasis. However, it's believed to be related to the immune system. The theory is that T cells, which are part of the immune system, stimulate skin cells to grow much faster than normal - and faster than they can be shed. This leads to scaly, red patches of skin caused by skin cells growing out of control.

Although there are many different psoriasis treatments that work in different ways, they all target this process in one way or another. Let's take a closer look at psoriasis treatment options.

There are three main ways of treating psoriasis: topical medications, systemic medications, and light therapy. Topical medications are applied directly to the skin or scalp, and work locally in the area where they are applied. Systemic medications are taken by mouth or injection and are absorbed into the bloodstream, where they move and work throughout the body. Systemic medications can be divided into biologics (such as alefacept, efalizumab, and etanercept) and non-biologics (such as acitretin, cyclosporine, and methotrexate). Here's how they work:

  • Light therapy: Although we don't know exactly how it works, light therapy is believed to decrease T cell activity, which helps control the skin cell growth and bring it back to more normal levels.
  • Topical medications: Each topical medication has a slightly different action, but most of them work by either reducing inflammation, controlling skin cell growth, or both.
  • Systemic medications - biologics: This group of medications works by controlling the activity of the T cells that are causing the skin cells to grow too quickly, and by blocking the T cells from entering the skin.
  • Systemic medications - non-biologics: These medications work by decreasing the activity of the immune system and blocking skin cell growth.

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