Vitamin D Derivatives for Psoriasis

By: Vivacare - Dr. Mark Becker

Vitamin D, and its derivatives, have been shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of skin conditions, particularly psoriasis.

Vitamin D is a naturally occurring substance that is produced by your skin following sun exposure. The skin uses vitamin D to regulate the growth and shedding of skin cells. Scientists first began to investigate the therapeutic benefits of vitamin D for the treatment of psoriasis when they observed that many people who received frequent sun exposure experienced a reduction in their psoriasis symptoms.

Synthetic forms of vitamin D have been developed that slow down the growth of skin cells when applied to the skin. These include:

  • Calcipotriene (Dovonex®). Calcipotriene is a form of synthetic vitamin D3. The most common side effect of calcipotriene is skin irritation (stinging and burning) and peeling skin.
  • Calcipotriene and betamethasone (Taclonex®). This formulation combines a vitamin D derivative with a topical corticosteroid.
  • Calcitriol (Vectical®). This is the naturally occurring form of Vitamin D3. It is less irritating than calcipotriene and can be applied to most areas except the face. This makes it useful for skin folds, such as around the groin, elbows or knees.

These medications may be used alone or in combination with other psoriasis treatments.

Because sun exposure can also harm your skin and puts you at a higher risk for developing skin cancer, do not increase your sun exposure with the intention of reducing your psoriasis symptoms without talking to your doctor.