Flaky Itchy-itis & Me.

“EWWW is it contagious?” then ask most people at first properly noticing it…. A firm “NO” is my answer.

Psoriasis effects 2 or 3 percent of people in the UK, so roughly speaking, I’m one in 1.8 Million. (In the scheme of things, a mere few!)

Alternately people ask…. “How did you do that?” *Pointing to a patch on my Arm/Knee/Forhead* “I didn’t” I reply, “Biology did”.

Psoriasis. A word many can say but cant read, can say but don’t know what it is, what it looks like, or what it does.

To start with, and English lesson:  “Sore-aye-a-sis” Psoriasis. Sometimes the English language is stupid. A psychology teacher once told me “Psory-Aye-asys” NO.

Most people have heard of or seen Eczema…. Psoriasis is very similar….BUT different.

To quote the Psoriasis Association: “Psoriasis is an immune condition, which causes symptoms on the skin and sometimes the joints. When a person has psoriasis, their skin replacement process speeds up, taking just a few days to replace skin cells that usually take 21-28 days. This abundance of skin cells builds up to form raised ‘plaques’ on the skin, which can also be flaky, scaly, red on caucasian skin, darker patches on darker skin tones, and itchy”

I’ve suffered with psoriasis for many years now, Since I was about 15. Mum noticed some lurking in my scalp, and whatever I tried to stop it, we just couldn’t. Over the years I’ve tried many different topical ways to try and combat the patches of flakes. However I have come to understand, although hard to imagine… There is no cure. 

Luckily for me, I’ve learnt to conceal it well…. I am currently (While writing this) “active” on both legs, my left arm, and my scalp and ears, but unless I mention it, people don’t really notice it.

The summer provides me with a huge dilemma…. Do I wear shorts?

Silly as this may seem, shorts is a two way road:

  1. The sun will hopefully help my Psoriasis to slow down and disappear.
  2. People will see my nasty flaky, patchy legs.

Until not so long ago, I’d only wear 3/4 length shorts to avoid showing my patches… I’d wear longer t-shirts or try not to expose my arms in the summer… one year, I even put plasters over the patches… (This made it worse and was never to be repeated.

2 years ago, I decided to start a kinda “Bugger it, I am who I am” phase… and since then I haven’t looked back, with flaky patches out on show in the summer… most people assume I’ve been badly bitten (Fools).

Last year however I had a course of Phototherapy – Which is pretty close to going on a sun-bed… except you are stood up and completely starkers.

While this sounds like fun – I can assure you that being sunburnt in November when you haven’t been out the country is damn funny to explain!! The phototherapy seemed to remove all the patches that I had (Both arms, torso, back and both legs) but didn’t get the scalp stuff as the hair was in the way. Phototherapy also gave me sunburn, chafing, and made me very dehydrated. BUT, No pain, no gain, so thrice a week I was up at Barnet General, Donning a Gown, and standing starkers, surrounded in light.

The effects of the phototherapy were great, however only short-term hence the fact I am again “Active” on my body….

I’m again applying a mix of tar based and steroid ointments to help try and reduce the areas which is covered with scales. I try to steer clear when possible of the tar based products simply because they have a very strong smell. But, the shampoo I use is tar based, so if you can smell something overpowering (almost tube like) then that’s probably my shampoo and I apologise!!

Currently my favourite (I probably mean most effective) treatment is called “Dovobet” or Generically “Calcipotriol/betamethasone”. This is steroid and comes in a lovely bright red box, in a white bottle with bright red label and lid. (Although this spells danger, it’s not as bad as it sounds!) This is nearly scentless (YAAAY)and seems to do the job… although I’m using this (with doctor’s permission) more than is “recommended” on the bottle but it seems to be doing the trick. (just paused writing to apply this and am now modeling the “Greased” look!)

I realise at this point that I am yet to mention what causes psoriasis… that’s because in short – NO ONE KNOWS. However we do know: “Psoriasis occurs when the immune system mistakes a normal skin cell for a pathogen, and sends out faulty signals that cause overproduction of new skin cells” Thank you Wikipedia! But we don’t know how the skin decides to mistake a normal cell for a pathogen.

It is known that stress can cause trigger Psoriasis or make existing psoriasis worse. For me, this is not the case – during GCSEs and A Levels, my condition maintained at the same severity.

I am, however subject to another known “cause”. The wonder that is genetics. (THANKS DAD.) On the positive side, I know that I am near enough “Pedigree” Phillips, not just the looks, but the hereditary skin condition too! However Psoriasis isn’t much fun, and I don’t think I’d suit a human style Crufts competition.

So there you go –  a short roundup of my weird medical condition… I purposely haven’t included pictures, because some people find it a bit gross… but if you click the two links (especially the WIkipedia one) you will see for yourself! If you are a bit intrigued and would like to see what it’s like – ask me and I’ll point it out to you – although you can hardly really miss it!