Over seven million Americans live with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition that can have a major impact on their quality of life. While there is no cure, doctors are experimenting with Botox, a popular cosmetic treatment, that may help ease flare ups.
It's something that's helping Lisa Encinca. More than 30 years ago she had her first outbreak of psoriasis.
"Initially I didn't know what it was. But as it began to increase, I went to see a doctor," she said.
Miami Dermatologist Dr. Leyda Bowes says psoriasis is a confounding skin condition.
"There's no cure for psoriasis and patients have to be applying creams and other therapies, even injections of specific agents, forever," Bowes explained.
Topical treatments helped Encinca for a while, but she became concerned about the long-term affect of cortisone creams and steroids. Long-term use can lead to thinning of the skin and atrophy.
"Also, sometimes the skin becomes lighter in color and there's no way of going back. It's pretty much permanent," said Bowes.
That's why Bowes and other dermatologists are experimenting with an off label use of Botox. The mechanisms of the wrinkle relaxer could help minimize the activity of inflammatory cells that fuel chronic conditions like psoriasis.
"So if we can modulate these responses, bring it down, psoriasis could improve," said Bowes.
A week after Encinca's injections, she says she noticed a clear difference.
"At this point, amazingly, I have the least amount of psoriasis I've had in years," said Encinca.
In theory, the benefit of Botox injections for psoriasis could last up to six months, but only small areas of skin can be treated at one time. If Botox receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of psoriasis, insurance companies may eventually cover the cost.
Experts add that Botox may hold hope for patients suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.