A small survey found that many Americans with chronic psoriasis use complementary or alternative therapies to treat their symptoms.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease characterized by red and scaly patches on the skin. It is associated with other serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and depression. Treatments range from topical ointments to ultraviolet light therapy and medications.
The National Psoriasis Foundation has released the survey in an information bulletin to about 100,000 members. In total, 219 people responded.
Patients usually start using complementary or alternative medicine when traditional treatments do not help or cause undesirable side effects, said Dr. Dr. Adam Friedman. He is Acting President of Dermatology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
"Patients are turning to these treatments because what was originally prescribed does not suit them," Friedman said in a university press release. "However, the survey revealed that patients may not fully understand which products are best for them."
The survey found that some respondents have used ineffective treatments or have not been studied for the treatment of psoriasis.
For example, patients have often consumed vitamin D and vitamin B12, but there is no evidence that they are effective against psoriasis.
Indigo naturalis – a plant extract widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and recognized as a treatment for various inflammatory conditions – has proven effective, but has not been reported by the patients of the survey. Dead Sea treatments have been widely reported by patients and have been shown to be beneficial.
"In addition to the selected treatments, we also found that less than half of those surveyed would recommend complementary or alternative therapies to others," Friedman said. "This could be the result of using therapies that are supported by limited evidence."
He added that physicians should be informed about complementary and alternative treatments in order to bring patients to evidence-based approaches that might be useful.
The survey was recently published in the journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
The National Psoriasis Foundation is more interested in psoriasis.
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