For teens: How do I treat it?

Psoriasis treatments work by slowing skin cell reproduction. Some help remove scale. Others help soothe itchy or uncomfortable skin. All psoriasis medications are effective in clearing lesions, but not all people with psoriasis react the same way to medications. It may require experimentation to see which treatments work for you.

Seeing the dermatologist

Most likely, you will be treated by a dermatologist. Dermatologists are doctors who specialize in skin care and diseases. They receive training to help keep skin healthy and to treat skin problems. Depending on how much information your dermatologist has about you, they may do the following things during your dermatology appointment:

  • Ask you about yourself, you skin problem and your concerns. This is a good time to tell the doctor about any itching, burning or redness on your skin.
  • Perform a physical exam. This is when the doctor will look very closely at your skin.
  • Test for anything that relates to the problem. This may include taking a sample of tissue, so that the doctor can determine what is causing the irritation.
  • Explain the condition, treatment options and side effects of the medicine. You or your guardian may ask the doctor more questions about the treatments and side effects.
  • Tell your guardian about the cost and time of the treatment. You may need to return for more visits to the dermatologist. Sometimes, most of the treatment can be done at home to get rid of the lesions.

Treatments for psoriasis

There are three basic categories of psoriasis treatment:

  • Topical treatments like creams and ointments are used on the areas of skin that have psoriasis plaques
  • Light therapy (ultraviolet light A and B or UVA and UVB) works by exposing the skin to light waves, sometimes cover the whole body and sometimes only on affected areas, like hands and feet.
  • Systemic medications are medications taken by mouth or injected into the muscle.

Learn more about psoriasis treatments »

Choosing a treatment

Doctors select treatments according to the type and severity of the psoriasis, the areas of the skin affected, your age and past medical history. Some of the treatments available for adults are used less often for teenagers because of the possibility of long-term or delayed side effects. Long-term effects on childbearing potential are important considerations for teenage girls. Learn more about treatments and childbearing »

Your role in treatment

Your overall goal is to gain control of your psoriasis and manage it. You'll need to work closely with your parents and doctor to understand your treatment options and to be sure you understand exactly how to follow the treatment directions. Half of all patients with a treatment prescribed by a doctor do not follow through as directed and, therefore, don't give the medication a fair chance to work.

Psoriasis patients report that the more they know about their treatment and take part in managing their treatment, the better prepared they are to develop reasonable expectations about treatment. They know what to expect and are more likely to use their medications correctly.

Discussing treatment with your doctor

Here are some questions you can ask your doctor when you are deciding which treatment to use for your psoriasis:

  • How long has this treatment been used for psoriasis?
  • What are the potential benefits of the treatment?
  • What percent of people improve on this therapy?
  • How quickly will it work?
  • How long will it work?
  • What are the common side effects of the therapy?
  • Will tests be required to monitor the side effects? If so, what kinds of tests and how often will I need them?
  • Will the side effects go away if I stop the medicine?
  • Can I stop this treatment suddenly or do I need to quit gradually?
  • What are the other options?
  • What if this treatment fails?