Too-Good-To-Be-True Psoriasis Treatments
If youâ€™re hoping for a magic pill to keep your psoriasis under control, beware: Scammers are out to fool you.
Do your research and talk to your doctor to find out whether youâ€™re considering bogus psoriasis treatments and would do better with a prescription psoriasis medication. â€œIn general when I talk to patients about treatment, I tell them that over-the-counter remedies are not particularly effective,â€ explained dermatologist Junko Takeshita, MD, PhD, a clinical instructor in the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
What's more, miracle cures or supplements promoted by scam artists could be downright dangerous. â€œI think people are always looking for alternative treatments because the systemic medications can have adverse side effects," Dr. Takeshita said, but she noted that even treatments called natural approaches could be psoriasis scams and may actually lead to more severe side effects than you might expect. Read on to know when to be leery.
Skin-Cap, Blue-Cap, and Psor-Val
Different names, same idea. Manufacturers of these products tried flying under the radar of agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), putting prescription-strength active ingredients in their products. Not really bogus psoriasis treatments, they can work â€” but they can also be extremely dangerous because of high levels of topical steroids. â€œAt the right dose, these are used to help control flares of psoriasis,â€ explained Takeshita. â€œItâ€™s not surprising it would be effective.â€ But ongoing use of strong topical steroids, especially without your doctor's supervision, can lead to adverse effects such as thinning skin, skin infections, and other complications.
Not to be confused with the fiber product Miralax, this is another topical treatment with high levels of steroids, specifically clobetasol. Miralex, which was made in Canada, was the subject of a class action lawsuit in 2002 after the Canadian government issued a warning that included the risk of plaque psoriasis turning into the pustular form after stopping Miralex. If you're tempted to seek out stronger meds like this in another country, donâ€™t: â€œThey donâ€™t provide the same level of regulation that we have here,â€ Takeshita warned.
Exorex is a line of expensive gels and shampoos advertised as containing emulsified coal tar to treat psoriasis. But there's no magic here â€” emulsifying coal tar usually just means processing it with emollients. The FDA allows coal tar to be marketed for psoriasis treatment, and coal tar treatments have long been used to manage plaques, but many common drugstore brands contain as much or more coal tar as Exorex. Prescription topical treatments might be more effective. So talk to your doctor about whether coal tar products are appropriate for you.
Though zinc pyrithione is a common ingredient in topical psoriasis creams and may offer some relief for psoriasis plaques, a 1994 clinical trial found no benefits of taking zinc orally for psoriasis. Yet bogus psoriasis treatment centered on zinc supplements is still circulating. â€œIâ€™m not aware of any studies showing that zinc is effective in treating psoriasis,â€ emphasized Takeshita. â€œIt doesnâ€™t make sense to me why zinc would help.â€ She said that you could feel better with a healthy, balanced diet and by losing weight if needed, but thereâ€™s no reason to spend money on zinc specifically.
Found in a variety of cosmetics, neem oil is also used as a pesticide, made from the seeds of the neem tree. The oil is touted as a skin soother for psoriasis. â€œIf a product is truly an oil and doesnâ€™t have any other ingredients, it might not be treating the psoriasis as much as cosmetically making sure the skin doesnâ€™t look as flaky,â€ said Takeshita. Also, beware that even herbal products, including neem oil, have the potential to irritate skin. Takeshita advised discontinuing the use of any item that makes your skin worse or less comfortable.
Small studies on oral nystatin for psoriasis done in the 1980s and '90s might have been behind this bogus psoriasis treatment. Nystatin is an antifungal cream, but while psoriasis plaques itch and irritate, they aren't caused by a fungus. People who have used this might have found some benefit if they were experiencing a co-occurring fungal infection, but it's unlikely that you'd otherwise see a benefit from an antifungal treatment. Before you add another topical treatment to the mix, check with your doctor to make sure you really need it, and it wonâ€™t interact with other treatments you are using.
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