Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. It happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. Several drugs may cause psoriasis or a flare-up of symptoms, including beta-blockers, lithium, and antimalarial drugs. A person should contact a doctor before changing or stopping any medications.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes red, purple, or greyish patches of skin to develop. These patches can also be flaky and covered with scales. Psoriasis can also cause an intense itching or burning sensation.
Over 8 million people in the United States have psoriasis.
Symptoms of psoriasis come during flare-ups, which can last different lengths of time.
When a person’s symptoms have cleared up, it means they are in remission. Remission periods for psoriasis can last for an average of 1–12 months at a time.
This article lists 12 drugs and drug groups that may trigger psoriasis symptoms and other factors that can cause psoriasis flare-ups.
Beta-blockers can slow down a person’s heart rate. They block the action of certain hormones, such as adrenaline, which helps prevent the “fight-or-flight” response to stress. By doing this, they lower stress on the heart and blood vessels.
Doctors prescribe beta-blockers to treat cardiovascular problems, including:
Psoriasis is one of the possible side effects of taking beta-blockers. Beta-blockers have strong links to causing plaque psoriasis, which is the most common type of psoriasis.
Oral beta-blockers may also lead to erythrodermic psoriasis and palmoplantar pustular psoriasis.
If a person takes beta-blockers that cause psoriasis, they may wish to stop taking the drug to allow the skin condition to clear up. However, a person should always check with their doctor first before they stop taking beta-blockers.
A person may also wish to treat their psoriasis with therapeutic agents and emollients.
Learn about natural beta-blockers here.
Lithium is a mood-stabilizing drug that medical professionals use to treat bipolar disorder, which involves episodes of mania and depression.
Lithium can cause psoriasis in people with no personal or family history of the disorder. It can cause plaque psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, palmoplantar psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis.
An older study found that inositol supplements may be an effective treatment for a person experiencing worsening psoriasis with lithium treatment. Inositol is a type of sugar found in the brain and tissues that helps balance some chemicals in the body.
A person should not stop taking lithium without first consulting a medical professional.
Learn about other side effects of lithium here.
Medical professionals prescribe a range of antimalarial drugs to prevent malaria. They may also use these drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.
Psoriasis can be a side effect of antimalarials, such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
Antimalarials are more likely to make someone’s psoriasis worse rather than trigger the problem itself. People who already have psoriasis should consult a doctor before taking antimalarial drugs.
It often takes between 2–12 weeks for these drugs to cause psoriatic skin lesions.
However, antimalarials can sometimes cause psoriasis to develop in people who did not previously have the condition. However, this is rare.
Antimalarials can cause psoriasis by inhibiting the production of the enzyme transglutaminase in the skin. This can influence the production of cells, which can trigger pustular psoriasis.
If a person stops taking their antimalarials, the psoriasis lesions tend to go away within 1 month. A person should always discuss any medication changes with their doctor first.
Learn more about pustular psoriasis here.
Imiquimod is an immune response modifier. Doctors prescribe it as a topical treatment for various conditions, including warts and basal cell carcinoma, which is a type of skin cancer.
Imiquimod treatment can make psoriasis worse in adults that already have the condition. It can also lead to drug-related psoriasis in children.
The drug has strong links to plaque psoriasis.
Some research suggests that psoriasis induced by topical imiquimod may go away with conventional psoriasis treatment.
Learn how to remove warts from fingers here.
Interferons treat a range of health disorders, including hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis (MS), and some cancers.
Some interferons, including interferon-alpha, interferon-beta, and interferon-gamma, have links to causing psoriasis.
Interferon-alpha is a treatment for hepatitis C and may cause psoriasis. It can also make symptoms of psoriasis worse for individuals who already have the condition.
One review of 32 studies showed that of the 36 people who developed psoriasis due to interferon-alpha treatment, 93% saw their symptoms disappear after stopping their treatment. Only 30% of cases saw an improvement in symptoms after just using topical therapies.
Interferon-beta is a treatment for MS. It can also cause psoriasis and worsen the symptoms in people who already have the condition.
Learn about other side effects of interferons here.
Terbinafine is a synthetic antifungal agent. Doctors can prescribe this medication to treat various fungal infections, including:
Terbinafine can cause or worsen the symptoms of a number of types of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, and inverse psoriasis.
A person may wish to stop taking terbinafine and apply topical treatments to treat their psoriasis. Always talk with a doctor before stopping any medications.
Learn more about antifungal drugs here.
Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors is a medication that doctors prescribe to treat high blood pressure, or hypertension, and other cardiovascular conditions. They can also help protect kidneys in people who have diabetes but do not have hypertension.
Some case reports suggest that ACE inhibitors could cause psoriasis. However, there are no current studies that confirm this.
Due to the little research available, there is not a defined treatment plan for people with ACE inhibitor-induced psoriasis.
Learn more about diabetes and hypertension here.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) targeted therapies, also known as TNF inhibitors, can treat various inflammatory conditions. These include inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), RA, psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis.
TNF inhibitors suppress the production of TNF. TNF makes up a part of the inflammatory response, so suppressing this helps block certain inflammations from happening.
However, despite doctors sometimes using TNF inhibitors to treat psoriasis, these drugs can also cause psoriasis or worsen existing symptoms.
Doctors may continue treating the person’s underlying condition with TNF inhibitors while also treating their psoriasis with topical steroids, UV therapy, methotrexate, or cyclosporine. They may opt to take this approach if the person’s psoriasis is mild and the TNF inhibitors effectively treat their underlying condition.
However, if a person experiences severe psoriasis symptoms, they may need to switch to a different anti-TNF agent or a biologic drug to help ease the symptoms of psoriasis. Biologics are a class of TNF inhibitors.
Learn more about tumor necrosis factor here.
Biologics, or biological response modifiers, are a class of TNF inhibitors that doctors prescribe to treat various conditions, including RA and Crohn’s disease.
Sometimes, doctors prescribe biologics to treat psoriasis, including psoriatic arthritis.
However, some research has suggested that biologics can trigger psoriasis or worsen the symptoms in individuals who already have the condition.
One case series looked at 10 people who either had new-onset or worsening psoriasis during biologic therapy.
Of the 10 people, seven developed psoriasis during therapy, and three saw their symptoms worsen during therapy.
Two people discontinued their biologic therapy and saw their psoriasis symptoms clear up. However, six participants did not stop their biologic treatment and saw an improvement in psoriasis symptoms after treatment with topical steroids.
More studies are necessary to confirm why biologics can cause psoriasis to develop.
Learn more about what biologics can treat psoriatic arthritis here.
Benzodiazepines are a group of drugs that can treat a range of conditions. Medical professionals often prescribe these drugs to treat:
A 2005 report found associations between various drugs, including benzodiazepines, and an increased risk of psoriasis. However, there is little current research to confirm this link.
NSAIDs can relieve or reduce pain. Aspirin and ibuprofen are common NSAIDs. People with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis may frequently use NSAIDs.
Using NSAIDs can sometimes lead to an increased risk of psoriasis. Some people with psoriasis have seen their symptoms worsen after using NSAIDs.
For example, an older review looked at several studies where the use of these drugs either caused psoriasis or made the symptoms worse in people who already had the condition.
If a person has psoriasis, they may choose to switch to a different type of pain relief and stop taking NSAIDs.
Learn about alternatives to NSAIDs here.
Antibiotics are a common treatment for a variety of infections. They destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria and therefore treat diseases that bacteria can cause.
Some scientists claim that some antibiotics can trigger psoriasis. Tetracyclines are one group of antibiotics that have links to psoriasis.
However, more research would be necessary to confirm this link.
Learn about the potential side effects of antibiotics here.
There are several other triggers for psoriasis that can worsen existing symptoms.
Common causes of psoriasis include:
Several drugs can either cause psoriasis to develop or worsen the symptoms in people who already have the condition.
These drugs include beta-blockers, lithium, antimalarial drugs, and ACE inhibitors. In some instances, a person with drug-induced psoriasis can treat it while still taking the medication that caused it.
However, other times, they may need to stop taking the drug.
A person should always check with their doctor before they stop taking any medication.
Last medically reviewed on July 26, 2021