Cyclosporine is a powerful immunosuppressive drug used as a temporary treatment for moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. When used for psoriasis, this medication is very effective in quickly reducing a patient’s symptoms. Patients typically notice an improvement in their condition within two weeks of taking the medication. After three to four months, even very severe cases are usually under control. Due to potentially dangerous side effects, most patients are switched to an alternative treatment within one year of taking cyclosporine.
Immunosuppressive drugs are those that suppress the function of the body’s thymus cells (T cells). The T cells are thought to be responsible for the abnormally rapid production of skin cells in patients suffering from psoriasis. When using cyclosporine for psoriasis, patients should see a reduction in psoriatic lesions as their body begins producing skin cells at a decreased rate.
When given a high cyclosporine dose, most patients start noticing an improvement in their skin within a few weeks. This medication is one of the most effective treatments for severe cases of plaque psoriasis. Still, cyclosporine is not typically the first medication prescribed by physicians. Cyclosporine is usually given to patients who have not responded to other medications and therapies.
Patients should also realize that cyclosporine is not a permanent treatment option. As soon as a patient’s psoriasis is under control, he or she might be switched to an alternative therapy. In most cases, patients are limited to one year of taking cyclosporine for psoriasis.
Once patients stops taking cyclosporine, their condition will depend on how well they respond to the next treatment. Some of the benefits of cyclosporine might disappear after a person stops taking the medication. So while cyclosporine is very effective, it is not a way to permanently control psoriasis.
Cyclosporine is not used as a long-term treatment due to certain side effects associated with prolonged use. Two especially worrisome side effects are nonmelanoma skin cancer and kidney damage. Since cyclosporine suppresses the immune system, users are also at an increased risk of developing a serious infection. Less serious side effects of cyclosporine include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, headache, fatigue, stomach discomfort and flu-like symptoms.
Patients should also be aware of several cyclosporine drug interactions. Certain anti-convulsants, antibiotics, anti-fungals, anti-inflammatories and gastrointestinal drugs will negatively interact with cyclosporine. When taking cyclosporine for psoriasis, patients should avoid grapefruit and limit their consumption of potassium-rich foods. Mixing certain foods and medications with cyclosporine might compromise the safety and effectiveness of the medication. Before taking cyclosporine for psoriasis, patients should discuss all possible side effects, drug interactions, and alternative therapies with their physician.