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Dermatol Online J. 2003 Feb;9(1):2.

A systematic review of adverse effects associated with topical treatments for psoriasis.

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Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA.


Mild to moderate psoriasis is a disease that can often be treated with topical medications. The diversity of topical therapies and their disparate side effects complicates treatment planning. Our purpose is to compare the rates of adverse events associated with different topical psoriasis treatments. A review of medical literature from 1996 to March, 2002 was conducted using guidelines set by QUORUM statement criteria. In monotherapy studies, corticosteriods caused fewer adverse reactions compared to vitamin D analogues and tazarotene. In combination studies adverse event rates were higher than in monotherapy studies, except for the combination of topical steroid and calcipotriene which decreased irritation. Irritant contact dermatitis was the main side effect with vitamin D analogues, tazarotene, dithranol or coal tar, while side effects of topical corticosteriods included headache, viral infection and skin atrophy. Topical agents for psoriasis are usually well-tolerated without severe side effects. Formulating a patient's medication regimen should take into account the needs for short-term management and long-term control of psoriasis. Since clearance is not a realistic expectation, reasonable goals should be set as excessive use of topical treatments may increase the risk of both cutaneous and systemic side effects.

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