At CEL Solicitors, we like to promote diverse and inclusive narratives through the work of our diversity committee. Karin, a legal advisor at CEL Solicitors, writes about her experience with psoriasis.
Psoriasis Awareness Month was first held in October 1997. It was later moved to August for multiple reasons; first being that there were already numerous awareness days in October. The main reason for the change, however, was that August is in summer, when people are likely to swim, sunbathe, and wear less clothing. The sun has a very positive effect on the skin and psoriasis.
What is Psoriasis?
Many think of psoriasis as a skin disease because that’s where we see most of its visible signs, including red patches and white/silver flakes. What many people don’t know is that psoriasis is actually an auto-immune disease and it is non-contagious.
Those with psoriasis have an overactive immune system, which speeds up the skin cell growth. While normal skin cells grow and shed in a month, psoriasis skin cells grow and shed in just three to four days. This causes a build up which can result in plaque and scales that can itch, burn, and sting.
It is estimated that around 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis. This is around 2-3% of the world’s population. Psoriasis can affect both men and woman equally and start at any age. It is most often seen to develop in individuals between 20 – 30 years old or 50 – 60 years old.
What are the effects of Psoriasis?
Mental health: The effect that psoriasis can have on physical appearance means very low self-esteem and anxiety are sadly very common. This very often can lead to depression. This is a vicious circle as Psoriasis can cause depression, but stress can be a trigger for psoriasis as well.
Physical discomfort: The build up which can result in plaque and scales that can itch, burn, and sting. This can often impact sleep as well due to the physical symptoms. This can than impact energy levels and lead to fatigue, which is known as ‘psoriatic fatigue’.
Psoriatic Arthritis: Unfortunately, it is very common to develop tenderness, pain and swelling in the joints and connective tissue. This is known as psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory joint condition associated with psoriasis.
1 in 4 people with Psoriasis will develop Psoriatic Arthritis which is very painful and disabling. Both conditions cause inflammation of the skin and even inside of the body.
Read more about the different types of psoriasis here.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but treatment can improve its symptoms and appearance.
Treatment varies upon severity. Topical treatment usually consists of steroids creams and moisturisers. While phototherapy exposes the skin to certain ultraviolet light. If the condition of the psoriasis is more severe, systematic treatment will be used, which is oral and injected medicines that work throughout the whole body.
My Experience with Psoriasis and Psoriasis Arthritis
I had never suffered with a skin condition until February 2019, when I had returned from a holiday in Spain with a nasty ear infection. This resulted in me being hospitalised for a couple of days. Around this time, a lot of small red spots began to appear all over my body until I was completely covered and ‘looked like a Dalmatian’. No one knew what it was, and a lot of medical tests were run, from simple blood tests to skin biopsies.
I left the hospital diagnosed multiple autoimmune conditions, one of which being psoriasis, which developed into psoriatic arthritis shortly after.
Personally, I’ve tried every topical cream available, which has unfortunately resulted in me burning my face. I have also been burned by phototherapy, which did not improve the state of my condition.
I started taking methotrexate injections (a chemotherapy drug) in the hopes of improving my immune system. It worked initially as I was relieved of my psoriasis for a couple of months, but I soon began to develop symptoms of psoriasis arthritis and my psoriasis returned. I tried another methotrexate medication, but again, it was not much help.
I’ve spent some time out of work and in the hospital due to lung damage caused by these lovely medications. But I’m a fighter, and against all odds, my lungs are improving daily.
Thanks to my new medication, an immunosuppressant, my skin looks a lot better. I’m not sure how long this will last, but one thing I have learned is that this journey is between myself and my skin. If somebody chooses to judge me over that, they can turn around and go away! I won’t let anybody’s opinions on my illness or appearance affect my mental health.
I believe that everybody should be thankful for all that they have, because at any moment it can be taken away from you. None of us can change the past and we never know what the future will bring. Today you can and should be you.