Beyond psoriasis: It’s more than just skin

Nothing would seem to work and it wouldn’t seem to go away. I would lather layers of over the counter topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone, vaseline, and scent free hydrating lotions, yet my skin could never be healed. The itch would be so painful that I couldn’t help but leave scratch marks across my arms, neck, legs and face. Patches of red, inflamed skin became too sensitive to touch. A piercing sting would result from my damaged skin if to stay in the cold for too long and heat would cause the patches flare up, but so did stress. How are my conditions supposed to be resolved when they also create my stress? 

Eyes would linger longer than usual at my arms, face and other areas of discoloration. People asked if I had a contagious disease. Between wearing long sleeves in 80 degree weather and choosing to not spend time with friends because I’m too embarrassed to show my skin, this is something I’ll always have to deal with. Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are not just skin conditions that you can expect to clear away from with a drop of ointment or cream and a healthy diet. These are chronic conditions that control the way many like myself navigate through life. 

Statistical information gathered by National Psoriasis Foundation (Graphic by Felicia Hyde/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin disease that speeds up the growth cycle of skin creating patches or plaques of raised red flaky skin all over the body. Psoriasis can show up literally anywhere: on the eyelids, ears, mouth, lips, skin folds, hands, feet and nails. 

“It’s not just skin, it’s much more than that,” said Bernie Rizzo, representative for Cosentyx, a prescribed medication that effects the immune system to tend to moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. “It’s a systemic issue in which the skin is reflecting what’s wrong on the inside of the body.” 

When you have psoriasis, your immune system becomes overactive and sends out signals that cause inflammation throughout the body causing the growth of skin cells to speed up. This can form lesions, which are abnormal changes to the skin in the form of plaques or areas of redness and swelling. 

On Saturday Nov. 2, the National Psoriasis Foundation hosted a 5k walk to help raise awareness and find a cure for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Multiple pharmaceutical companies set up booths with pamphlets and brochures to educate the public of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis and share with others the need for treatment. 

Many people don’t acknowledge these chronic conditions to be life threatening and don’t seem to understand that they significantly alter your life like severe illnesses would. 

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis starts between ages 15 and 25, but can develop at any age and is “linked with comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.” 

These conditions are different for every person, yet these non-curable diseases are physically visible, making them equally or maybe more concerning to people’s lives.  Those who do not have to deal with these diseases don’t have to hide their skin with clothing and make-up or feel excluded from activities because they’re perceived to have infectious conditions. 

“The impact of people’s lives are grossly underestimated by those who don’t have to deal with these conditions,” said Ruby Ghadially, dermatologist at UCSF. “I know people who have been asked to exit public pools because people believed they carried highly contagious diseases.”

These incurable chronic conditions are just as big of a concern as any other health threatening disease and should be acknowledged because it’s a worry that I and many others will forever have to deal with.