Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes reddish-pink bumps to develop on various parts of the skin because of a buildup of rough, dry skin cells. Doctors are unsure what causes psoriasis, but they believe it may be inherited and brought on by stress. Treatment options include topical creams, medications and exercise. Physicians also believe that changes in diet may help treat the skin disorder. Caffeine, whether applied topically or consumed, may have a direct effect on psoriasis.
Psoriasis affects more than 6 million people in the United States alone, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Prescriptions and over-the-counter topical creams are used to treat the symptoms of psoriasis. In more severe cases, an oral prescription medication is also used. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can be taken to help reduce inflammation. Many nutritional changes are often suggested to help the symptoms of psoriasis. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that people with psoriasis avoid alcohol, simple sugars and foods high in fat. Food allergies may trigger a psoriasis breakout, so allergy testing might be required.
Topical Caffeine to Treat Psoriasis
A 2005 study published in the “Journal of Dermatological Treatment” used topical caffeine cream to treat psoriasis. Thirty-nine patients with psoriasis were divided into two groups for the research. The patients in the experimental group were treated three times a day with a cream containing 10 percent caffeine. Patients in the control group were given a placebo. The Psoriatic Area and Severity Index, or PASI, was assessed at every visit. After eight weeks, researchers found that treatment with caffeine was more effective than a placebo at reducing PASI scores.
Caffeine Increases Immune Response
Researchers are unsure to what extent the role of caffeine has in affecting the immune system. In a 2004 study published in the “Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology,” researchers found that caffeine intake in mice affected lysozyme, an enzyme part of the immune system. Chronic caffeine consumption increased lysozyme activity and played an important role in developing a protective immune system. The studies conducted are important because it is believed psoriasis may be an autoimmune disorder.
Caffeine as an Anti-Inflammatory
The role of caffeine in inflammation is not completely understood. Caffeine is used in some over-the-counter pain medications because it helps to increase the affects of acetaminophen, but it is unclear if caffeine acts as an anti-inflammatory on its own. A 2011 study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” investigated 16 healthy men and the effects of coffee on appetite, energy intake and inflammation-related markers. Caffeine was found to increase cortisol concentrations in the body. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, which can lead to a reduced anti-inflammatory response.
- The University of Maryland Medical Center; Psoriasis; Steven D. Ehrlich; March 2010
- Journal of Dermatological Treatment: Evaluation of the Efficacy of Topical Caffeine in the Treatment of Psoriasis Vulgaris
- Journal of Nutrition: Caffeinated Coffee Does Not Acutely Affect Energy Intake, Appetite, or Inflammation but Prevents Serum Cortisol Concentrations from Falling in Healthy Men
- The Science Creative Quarterly; Stress, Cortisol, and the Immune System: What Makes Us Get Sick?