Topical medications are those applied only to the surface of the body. They come in the following forms:
- Occlusive tapes
In general, topical treatments are the first line for mild-to-moderate psoriasis, but they may also be used, alone or in combination, with more powerful treatments for moderate-to-severe cases. Topical medicines rarely clear up symptoms completely, however.
Topical corticosteroids are the mainstay of psoriasis treatment in the United States. These drugs work for most patients because they:
- Decrease inflammation
- Block cell production
- Relieve itching
Corticosteroids are available in a wide range of strengths, and are generally given as follows:
- Less potent drugs are used for mild-to-moderate psoriasis.
- Stronger drugs are reserved for more severe disease.
Topical steroids are often rated by how strong or potent they are:
- Low potency (some are available over-the-counter)
- Low-to-medium potency
- Medium- to upper-mid potency
- High potency
- Very high potency
Review Date: 10/21/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.