I Have Psoriasis, and Here's What Works for Me

Victoria Hoff
PHOTO:

Matthew Stone

I still remember the scene exactly: I was 8 years old, playing in my room after school, when I noticed that my stomach felt uncomfortably itchy. After scratching to no avail, I lifted up my shirt to discover an angry red rash. By the next morning, it had spread up to my chin and down my legs, until only my face was unscathed, and my mother dashed me to the dermatologist in a panic. That would be my first visit of many over the next several weeks, as I underwent phototherapy treatment for a severe psoriasis flare-up.

To me, the high-spirited second-grader, my skin condition was a source of excitement rather than shame. I didn't know how to spell "psoriasis" or what it really was, for that matter; I just knew I had to put on a funny robe and goggles and stand in a bright booth with my arms raised, eyes closed, and that would make me all better. I reveled in the attention I got at school and from the cooing dermatology associates. And then the rash faded, and it was back to normalcy. That was that.

Now, I understand how lucky I am to have evaded any kind of comparable breakout since then—so far, at least. Save for flaky spots here and there, my psoriasis remains fairly dormant, only aggravated to the point of vague annoyance. I can't imagine what it would be like to deal with a real, body-consuming breakout as a working adult. But I also know that as I write this, there are thousands of adults who are.

Psoriasis is the number one most prevalent autoimmune disease in the United States, affecting as many as 7.5 million Americans. "It's an inflammatory skin condition that causes the skin cells to build up on the surface of the skin, resulting in well-demarcated, thick, red scaly patches on the skin," explains Dr. Sejal Shah, NYC-based dermatologist and RealSelf contributor. There are five different types, all varying in severity—erythrodermic psoriasis, for example, results in burned-looking skin and may require hospitalisation. Psoriasis can also be triggered by illnesses like strep throat, and in some cases is associated with arthritis.

I have the most common variety, psoriasis vulgaris, which is about as sexy as its name implies: Also called plaque psoriasis, it occurs as flaky (and often itchy) red patches on the skin. The condition is chronic, so I'm stuck with it for life. But while I'm so fortunate to be in remission for so many years, the clusters of red spots that pop up every now and then are no less annoying. The good news is that over time, I've learned more about my triggers and how to clear a breakout as quickly as possible.

Do you have psoriasis? How do you deal? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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