All About Psoriasis: What Does It Look Like, How To Control It, How Does It Affect Me? [And More]

Posted on December 19, 2011 in Health and Life

By Deshnee Naidoo:

10th grade classmate: “Yuck, what’s that on your head?”
Me: “You won’t catch it! It’s just psoriasis!”

But it was never ‘just psoriasis’. It meant that I couldn’t wear whatever I wanted. “No black, Mom, the flakes will show. Get me a light colour.”

It meant that I had to spend nearly an hour in the mornings just moisturising my skin. “Desh, did you remember your legs, your scalp, behind your ears? Are you sure?”

It has meant fourteen years of countless visits to countless skin specialists, experimenting with and spending a fortune on countless medications trying to control a disease for which there is no cure.

What is this disease?

Psoriasis (SORE-RYE-SIS) is a chronic (long-lasting) skin disease characterised by scaling and inflammation. Scaling occurs when cells in the outer layer of the skin reproduce faster than normal and pile up on the skin’s surface. This skin cannot be shed before the new batch of skin is produced therefore causing a scaly, reptilian-like appearance.

How is it caused?

No one really knows the answer to that but there are a lot of theories surrounding this issue.

  • Genetics – it could be hereditary although a family case of psoriasis does not guarantee that you will get it. On the other hand, no family history of the disease does not guarantee immunity.
  • Stress – a major event or change that causes extra stress could lead to a breakout of psoriasis.
  • Environmental factors – it can get worse in colder weather due to dry skin

What does it look like?

Psoriasis has many different appearances. It may be small flattened bumps, large thick plaques of raised skin, red patches, and pink mildly dry skin to big flakes of dry skin that flake off. When occurring on the scalp, it can appear as really bad dandruff.

How can I control my psoriasis?

Notice I used the word ‘control’ because there is no cure for this disease. It is a life-long condition with which you will have good days and bad days.

There are many creams and shampoos that are prescribed but the main ingredient in these is Coal Tar. It stinks like hell but it helps.
Certain foods like red meat, dairy or spicy foods can trigger a breakout so it would be best to avoid those.

How does this affect my lifestyle?

That depends entirely on a person and their self-esteem. If you allow psoriasis to take over your life, it can become crippling. You will stay at home, afraid or embarrassed to face people.

In some people, psoriasis can cause depression or anxiety due to their lack of confidence in how they look.

On the other hand, you can be like me and go out into the world and accept the stares that people give you.

Oh, there will be stares, there will be comments and there will most definitely be ignorance. But why should that stop me or you from living our lives?

Educate people, tell them it’s not contagious and watch how their attitudes towards you change.