One of my least favorite topics of conversation is back in the Hollywood headlines this week after a fellow sufferer has defiantly stood against the frustration that is Psoriasis. Kim Kardashian has made it public fodder that she is a Psoriasis sufferer and has backed this up with photographic evidence of the unsightly red patches that dot her legs and torso. Now I may not be the biggest Kim K fan and I’m certain they’re not rushing to develop a Psoriasis Kimoji, but I have to commend her for making public a condition that 3% of the global population suffer with quietly at any given time. Kim has said that she has learned to live with Psoriasis and no longer bothers with unsuccessful attempts to hide the blotchy redness on her body, a fight that I know all too well. Sadly, unlike Kim, I haven’t learned to ‘live with’ this disorder. I’m not certain that you ever truly do.
Psoriasis does not discriminate. You are never too rich or too poor for the plaques to take over your life in the most physical and mental ways possible. In the U.K., 2% of the population has to manage varying degrees of Psoriasis severity on a daily basis – I am one of those 2%. I am a Psoriasis sufferer and yes, I suffer.
I was about 11 years old when a mistaken case of ringworm was finally diagnosed to be Psoriasis. Psoriasis is NOT just a skin condition; the effects are not purely aesthetic. The disorder is not curable. The presentation can be horrific. No matter the severity, this chronic disease affects its sufferer’s daily whether it is in the physical or in the lesser-noticed mental capacity. While everyone was dashing out into the South African summer sun in the sexiest bikini, I was donning the full-length costume and cover up. Hiding my skin, hiding my body. Hiding the lesions that were once mistaken for leprosy in medieval Europe and required clapper ringing on arrival.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, often thought to be genetic, which is triggered by external, environmental and internal factors. It presents itself as red, flaky, crusty patches on the surface of the skin as a result of increased production of skin cells. In a healthy, non-Psoriasis suffering person, skin cells are made and replaced every 3-4 weeks. In someone with Psoriasis like myself, this process is sped up to 3-7 days. The new and dead skin cells are piling up faster than the body can naturally shed them. At any given time, I’m walking around with scales, like a snake in shed. Stress, diet, weather and more stress are all causes for my Psoriasis flare-ups. I know the triggers; unfortunately the result may only arrive a few months later.
Alas, not much can be done for the complete removal of Psoriasis. As mentioned, Psoriasis cannot be cured, though the symptoms can be managed. Other than being unsightly, Psoriasis can also be quite itchy and it is important not to scratch the plaques to the point of a bleed. What is important is to ensure that treatment is followed to make life as easy as possible for yourself; to manage this condition so that Psoriasis does not dictate your life – easier said than done, I know. Psoriasis can be treated with a range of topical ointments, light therapies and herbal remedies but no matter the product, it never entirely goes away. Just look at the money Kim K has? Even she can’t solve the problem.
The most difficult thing about having Psoriasis is dealing with other people’s perception of the disease. It is important to note that Psoriasis is NOT contagious; you will not get it from sitting next to me. If you do, it’s large in part to your genetics and less to do with my skin on yours.
I spend a lot of time trying to explain to others that I don’t have eczema however similar the presentation. I also have to explain that I don’t have dandruff, despite the large white flakes falling from my head. (Flashback to the drawing scene in ‘The Breakfast Club’, I’m not making it snow!). I don’t wear shorts as my black sofa’s are white and flaked after sitting on them when I do, I can’t shave my legs as regularly as I would like as a blade on a large Psoriasis plaque is asking for trouble, I can’t raise my arms above my head as my armpits look inflamed and no matter what foundation I use, my skin always looks too dry and flaky as I attempt to cover the big red patches on my forehead. Getting tattoos can also be a little bit tricky sometimes as after a new tattoo, my skin is likely to break out with new Psoriasis plaques (thank you Koebner phenomenon).
Living with Psoriasis is a daily struggle for the self-esteem; it is no wonder that depression and mental illness are closely linked to this disease. I look at my body and I am disgusted as the flaky white patches worsen with the dry, cold winter approaching. To me, my Psoriasis is severe and debilitating and sometimes can be the reason that I don’t want to leave the house. I only have to Google about other sufferers to see that my situation is not nearly as bad as it could be. There are people who have far worse cases than I do… that should make me feel better. It doesn’t. It isn’t fair. Why do any of us have it at all?
I was hoping to be a little more positive in this post but as I wrote, I felt myself getting more and more frustrated with my situation (combined with the other medical issues I currently have going on). I looked in the mirror and another red mark has risen on my cheek, I looked at my torso in the hopes of taking a picture but was horrified at how much worse it’s actually gotten. After all of this, I am just angry and fed up. It just isn’t fair.
World Psoriasis Day is coming up on the 29th of October and now more than ever I’m hopeful that a cure will be found, that something will be done to get rid of this awful disease. Psoriasis may not be one of the most talked about diseases but it’s definitely one that needs more of a conversation. Let’s talk about it, let’s support each other and let’s recognize that this is a chronic illness that needs to be acknowledged as a disease we shouldn’t have to just ‘deal with’. Kim K or not 😉
You can get more involved with Psoriasis in the UK by donating to the Psoriasis Association and reading more about the treatments and advancements in Psoriasis research.