The vitamin A group of medications includes both topical treatments and tablets. These agents are often referred to as the “retinoids”. This group of medications is used by dermatologists to treat psoriasis and a wide range of other skin conditions.
Vitamin A can be delivered as a cream or gel and comes in various strengths. It works by helping to normalise the over-production of skin cells in psoriasis and helps reduce inflammation that causes redness and discomfort on the skin.
Vitamin A tablets can also be used in moderate to severe psoriasis. These tablets can only be prescribed by Specialist Dermatologists. The most common side effect of Vitamin A tablets are dry lips, however in higher doses careful monitoring is needed.
A doctor’s prescription is usually required to use these products in Australia. Most commonly prescribed topical vitamin A products for psoriasis are made more affordable under the government’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Often vitamin A topical treatments are used in conjunction with other treatments such as other topical treatments (e.g. topical steroids), ultraviolet light treatments and tablet treatments. We recommend a carefully individualised treatment plan when using these products.
The most common side effect from these products is burning, stinging and redness of the skin. They can also increase the risk of sunburn so patients must be careful to limit sun exposure and use protective sunscreens when using this product.
These products do not cause thinning of the skin but they can help to reduce the thickness of psoriasis lesions on the skin.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not use these products. It is important to discuss your pregnancy plans with our specialists so that the safest options can be recommended for you.
For bad or resistant cases of psoriasis, we often combine narrowband phototherapy with Vitamin A treatments to achieve a quicker clearance rate than either treatment alone. Phototherapy, using Ultraviolet B light, can reduce the inflammation in the skin due to psoriasis. This treatment also can reduce the abnormal turnover of cells in psoriasis which causes the scaling.
Using both treatments (Vitamin A combined with UV light), also enables the UV phototherapy to penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
At The Psoriasis Institute we encourage patients to take a holistic approach to managing their psoriasis, including looking into supplements, diet and managing stress levels. Increased Vitamin A can be obtained thru diet, however in many cases the levels aren’t high enough. Our Psoriasis Dietician, Val Young can discuss ways to supplement your Vitamin A intake.
Most vitamin A products are under the PBS scheme, in some cases 3 months supply of tablets are less than 20 dollars. Vitamin A cream prescriptions range between $25-$45, depending on the strength and brand.
Most patients don’t realise that the majority of pharmacies will stock these creams and tablets.
The use of Vitamin A is extremely useful in all forms of psoriasis, from mild to severe. Vitamin A creams are best used on small areas and can be especially useful on the face. Titrating the amount and frequency is very important. Tablets of vitamin A compounds can be very useful in treating moderate to severe psoriasis, however with these higher doses of Vitamin A tablets, specialist monitoring is needed. In summary, vitamin A treatment plays a very important role in the management of psoriasis patients.
Dr Scott Webber - Specialist Dermatologist
At the Psoriasis Institute, all my specialists are in the same place. They talk to each other and coordinate my care so I can get all aspects of my psoriasis looked after.