Alas, I am covered in spots from head to toe again.
The dreaded psoriasis is back. For those who haven’t come across psoriasis before, there are a few things you should know…
Firstly, don’t shun a person with psoriasis. It is not contagious and you can’t catch it – even if you are very intimate with that person. By acting normally, you reassure them that they are still socially acceptable.
Secondly, many skin specialists now consider psoriasis to be a chronic mental health condition because it is closely linked to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. I personally know self-esteem is very easily affected, as it is hard to feel good about yourself when you are plastered in ugly-looking spots. Even events you were looking forward to become a minefield because you are worrying about how to dress and whether you should try to hide your spots, or let them show and hope people won’t be repulsed.
Thirdly, remember psoriasis is a chronic condition because there is no cure. It is possible to treat the spots themselves until they fade – which may take several months – but it is by no means easy to predict when sufferers may have another flare-up.
Many people ask me how psoriasis is caused. The simplest answer is that it is a genetic skin abnormality which causes the skin cells to grow at a vastly accelerated rate. You are born with psoriasis and you only discover it when you get your first flare-up. It does sometimes (but not always) run in families – my father has it and so do I. I hope my son hasn’t inherited it.
There are various types of psoriasis and different people have different triggers for their flare-ups. For some people, it’s stress, such as losing their job, or a trauma in their personal life, such as the death of someone close to them.
For other people, it is things in their diet – if you can pinpoint what your triggers are and remove them from your diet, you may remain spot-free for quite some time.
Unfortunately for me, mine is usually triggered by an assault to my immune system. It normally occurs when I have had an awful lot of things on my mind and then bang – a serious infection. I have pinpointed it to infections of the ears, nose, throat kind and the last two flare-ups in spring 2014 and now have both been caused by severe throat infections.
Sadly for me, I am allergic to penicillin, and many other antibiotics simply don’t work for me.
Despite trying to stay healthy – I eat well, I run, I go to the gym and I am fairly fit for a mum in her 40s – it is impossible for me predict when I might catch a cold, which then develops into an infection of the psoriasis-triggering kind.
I have had a few flare-ups in my life – some have stayed fairly localised on my legs, but this latest one is by far the worst yet, as I currently have spots on my face, ears, neck, shoulders, chest, stomach, back, arms, hands, legs, feet – well you get the picture!
It is also quite worrying that this is the second full-body flare-up in two years, when I had previously stayed spot-free for almost 15 years. So many things have happened to me in the past 12 months and it’s making me wonder if I should make some lifestyle changes.
I want to educate more people about psoriasis and I am not afraid to let my spots show. It’s a condition that affects between two and four per cent of the UK’s population, yet very few people ever realise how serious it can be.
While most normal people simply feel stressed, psoriasis sufferers see their problems emerge in the physical manifestation of spots, generally followed by a downward spiral into depression about their appearance and anxiety about their health in general.
Fortunately for me, I am a cheerful soul by my very nature. My husband married me while I was covered with spots – he realised that beauty is beyond skin deep and you simply have to see past the spots to admire the soul. I hope other people will realise this too.