October 29 is World Psoriasis Day
So let me take you back to 2014. I was in college and all of a sudden I developed a “patch” of what seemed like dandruff on the back of my head. For years I tried to use over the counter items, steroid creams and natural remedies to help like Head and Shoulders and many others alike. It wasn’t that big of deal and I never thought too much of it – just a minor inconvenience. I was pregnant with my son in 2018, and as if pregnancy and having a child doesn’t wreck enough havoc on a body, my patch began to grow and grow. A year after he was born, that once dime size patch covered my whole scalp, ears, nose, elbows and I had spots up and down my both of my legs. It would itch like crazy and everywhere I’d go I seemed to leave flakes which was incredibly embarrassing. People would point them out in my hair almost daily. My family and I would always joke that we knew I could never commit a crime because my flakes and DNA would be everywhere.
Another weird thing that began to happen was that my hands and fingers began to swell, became stiff, and were in a lot of pain. Soon that feeling had begun to spread to my wrists, elbows, hips, and feet. I couldn’t help but think, “What in the world is going on with m?!” So, I finally scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist and a rheumatologist.
As my luck would have it, I was diagnosed with Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis which is considered an auto immune disease. I was relieved to have finally found an answer for my once dime sized patch that turned into covering 30 percent of my body. However, there is no cure for either of these conditions, only symptom management. I have now been on a weekly biologic injection which has cleared my skin and made the arthritis much more bearable on a daily basis.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes red, itchy/scaly patches most commonly on the scalp, elbows, and knees. These patches can itch, burn and even bleed. Psoriasis can also make nails weak and pitted. It can go through cycles of flaring for a few weeks and then go into remission (I was never so lucky). There are also many types of Psoriasis you can have that does not cause the patches that build into flakes. For example, one type will cause a red rash in the folds of your skin (Inverse Psoriasis). There is no known cause of the disease, but it is found to be brought on by genetics and can be brought on by some sort of trigger like stress or sickness – for me it was the birth of my son. It is a problem with the immune system that causes skin to generate faster than normal rates which causes the buildup of the scaly patches. Having this also puts you at a greater risk for developing Psoriatic Arthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, and Crohn’s Disease.
While there are many treatment options for this disease, as I’m sure we have all seen the commercials for Humira, Skyrizi, Otezal, and Embrel, they all come with their own risks. These medications are an immunosuppressant which lowers your immune response to keep the skin growing at a normal pace rather than a rapid one. But of course, a lower immunity could cause many negative effects as well – especially in the middle of a COVID 19 pandemic. Not to mention, having to inject yourself weekly is not my idea of a good time. Common side effects of the biologic injections also include stomach pain, headaches, cold symptoms, weakness, fatigue (my worst enemy when it comes to my injections), injection site reactions and puts you at a high risk for developing respiratory infections. The worst part in my opinion is the costs of these injections as they could run $15,000 out of pocket each month. I once, after insurance, owed nearly $900 for a month’s worth of injections! Luckily these companies have savings card programs to make these medications much more affordable.
Psoriasis is so much more than just a cosmetic issue. It’s also a social and mental one as well. There are so many misunderstood ideas about it and when you have this condition and are showing skin symptoms, you’re constantly asked about it. Questions like, “Is that contagious?” were asked to me quite often – also no, it very much is not contagious.
Thank you for taking the time to educate yourselves on a disease that affects approximately 7.5 million people in the U.S. Happy National Psoriasis Awareness Day!