Survey shows psoriasis patients frequently turn to alternative medicine

Patients with psoriasis frequently use complementary or alternative therapies to treat their symptoms, according to a new survey by dermatologists from the George Washington University (GW) and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Through a survey distributed by the National Psoriasis Foundation, a team led by Adam Friedman, MD, interim chair of the Department of Dermatology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, found that patients with psoriasis typically turned to complementary or alternative medicine when their traditional medications failed or presented harsh side effects.

The survey found that patients reported using complementary and alternative medicines. Vitamins D and B12 were frequently reported. Indigo naturalis, a plant extract widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and recognized as a therapy for several inflammatory conditions has shown efficacy in treating psoriasis but was not reported in the survey. Dead Sea treatments were commonly reported and have shown therapeutic benefit, the survey said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, psoriasis is chronic autoinflammatory skin disease that speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells, which causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. Treatments for psoriasis range from topical ointments to ultraviolet light therapy to drugs. Psoriasis is associated with other serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

Acknowledging that these treatments are part of patients' armament, Friedman and his team suggest that educational initiatives that enable physicians to discuss evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine may improve patient satisfaction and outcomes.

"Patients turn to these treatments because what was initially prescribed is not working out for them," said Friedman in a statement. "In addition to the chosen treatments, we also found that less than half of the respondents would recommend complementary or alternative therapies to others.”