How do topical treatments work?

Topical treatments are applied to the skin areas that are affected by psoriasis. They act directly in the area where they are applied. There are many different topical treatments – here's how they work:

  • Topical corticosteroids work by controlling skin cell overgrowth and reducing inflammation.
  • Calcipotriol is a form of vitamin D. It works by slowing down skin cell overgrowth by regulating the skin’s immune system.
  • Salicylic acid helps get rid of psoriasis plaques by breaking down the dead skin cells on top of the psoriasis lesion. This also helps with removing psoriasis scales.
  • Tazarotene is a synthetic form of vitamin A. Scientists do not know exactly how it works. However, it is believed to decrease skin cell growth and also increase breakdown of the dead skin cells in the psoriasis plaques.
  • Coal tar works by slowing down skin cell production and scaling.
  • Anthralin works by decreasing the growth of skin cells.

In general, the effects of topical treatments do not last once the treatment is stopped. Once treatment is stopped, the symptoms can return again. Topical treatments may be used alone, in combination with one another, or in combination with systemic therapy or light therapy.

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