What is a TNF Inhibitor and Why is it Used for Treating Psoriasis?

Have you recently been diagnosed with psoriasis? If so, you are part of a worldwide group that consists of roughly 125 million people. That new diagnosis may have you wondering what potential treatments are available for your skin condition.

Recently, there has been a lot of attention and advertisements about the effectiveness if psoriasis therapies known as TNF inhibitors. These medications include Remicade (infliximab), Enbrel (etanercept) and Humira (adalimumab). Still, many patients ask what is a TNF inhibitor and why is it used for psoriasis?

Let’s start with a breakdown of the term TNF inhibitors. “The acronym used in the first half of the term stands for Tumor Necrosis Factor,” explains Dr. Adam Mamelak, dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. It is a chemical that is naturally found in a healthy person’s immune system. The chemical, when triggered, causes the body to temporarily experience inflammation and skin growth. Common triggers associated with the disease include exposure to cold temperatures, stress, and tobacco smoke as well as excessive alcohol consumption.

TNF inhibitors therefore are a class of FDA approved, prescription drugs that are used to stop or otherwise control the TNF chemical’s unwanted effects in the body. In fact,these drugs are used to treat a variety of other conditions beyond psoriasis. Health care professionals frequently use TNF inhibitors to treat health problems that involve inflammation and autoimmune system dysfunction, such as arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

“When a patient with psoriasis uses a TNF inhibitor, the medication prevent the person’s immune system from overreacting to the triggers,” explains Dr. Mamelak. As a result, the person experiences less inflammation, and hence, less skin and nail disturbances.

TNF inhibitors can be used to treat a number of the psoriasis variants. The TNF inhibitors are often paired with other treatments in an attempt to address itching as well as skin and nail eruptions that may already be present. The list of additional treatment methods often includes the use of topical creams, light therapy, oral pills, and even special over-the-counter grooming products that active ingredients.

Contact Us

The above was just a cursory overview of TNF inhibitors and how they are used to treat psoriasis. To learn more about this important dermatology topic, please contact us at (512) 837-3376. Our compassionate, innovative, experienced dermatologists can help you develop a plan of care designed specifically to address your unique psoriasis needs.

About the Author:

5x7_final MERIDIA MEDICAL 2011 118Dr. Adam Mamelak is a Canadian and U.S. board-certified dermatologist and Mohs micrographic surgeon. Dr. Mamelak has authored peer-review papers on the use of biologic agents and TNF inhibitors in the treatment of psoriasis, as well as the eMedicine book chapter of Plaque Psoriasis.


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