3 Reasons People Stop Psoriasis Treatment

How cost, side effects, and symptom flares lead people to abandon psoriasis treatment.

Medically reviewed in December 2020

If you have psoriasis, getting effective treatment is a must—not just to relieve your symptoms and boost your quality of life, but also to protect your overall health. That’s because the same inflammation that attacks your skin also damages other parts of your body, potentially leading to heart disease, arthritis and other conditions.

So here’s a big problem: Research suggests that most people are struggling to find a treatment that works for them, and then stick with it. Worse, many aren’t getting help at all.

A study presented at the 2015 World Congress of Dermatology looked at insurance records for more than 900,000 people with psoriasis. It found that, in a single year, nearly half had lapsed treatment, and another third had never been treated at all. That means only about 1 in 5 people were on a consistent treatment plan.

The study didn’t look at why, but dermatologists have several theories. Here are some likely reasons people might skip or stop psoriasis treatment, and what you need to know:

It’s too expensive 
This is the roadblock that most often stands in the way of treatment. Some psoriasis drugs are costly, and insurance companies may try to deny claims. Your doctor can write a letter to appeal the decision, though, and your employer’s HR department or state insurance commission may also be able to help. Also, financial aid programs are available to help people with and without insurance to pay for medications and other treatments. You can find links to these programs at the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Financial Assistance Resource Center.  

It’s not working
You may not be getting the right treatment. People with moderate or severe psoriasis often need systemic therapies—oral or injected medications, such as biologics or methotrexate, that reduce inflammation in the whole body—rather than just ointments or procedures that treat the surface of the skin. Also, many people don’t realize that it’s normal for psoriasis symptoms to flare up from time to time, even despite good treatment.

The side effects are too bad
True, psoriasis medications can cause adverse effects ranging from annoying to severe. Topical creams and ointments may cause some mild irritation or thinning of the skin. Some are messy, have a strong smell or stain skin and clothing. More seriously, because biologic drugs suppress the immune system, they can make you more vulnerable to infections. These are typically mild and don’t cause people to quit treatment, but in rare cases, serious infections can happen. People with certain medical conditions, like MS or heart failure, shouldn’t receive certain biologics.

The solution for all these concerns? Work with your doctor—if your treatment isn’t working as well as you’d like, tell her. She can help you find a regimen that gives you the best relief from your symptoms, while minimizing side effects. And if costs are a barrier, your doctor can point you to resources to help lower your bills.

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