Psoriasis affects your body, mind, and spirit. There is no cure, but healing and even remission is possible. The road to remission can be rocky with many stops and starts along the way. It’s a journey. And like any other, there is more than one route to get there.
Here’s how three women made peace with themselves and their illness.
In 2008, I had a scaly scalp that I thought was just dandruff. After about a year it started to spread and I was diagnosed with psoriasis.
At worst, my body was completely covered. My face, my ears, my legs, my back, no place has been spared. I was itching horribly, and when I scratched my skin it would bleed.
For 10 years I have tried all kinds of shampoos and skin creams. While living in Singapore I visited the National Skin Clinic and started UVB treatments which helped me a lot. The problem was, as soon as I stopped going, my psoriasis came back.
When it was time to start a family, I wanted to avoid strong medications during pregnancy. I just handled it the way I could.
We moved to New York and I went to see a dermatologist for relief. Eventually I found Dr Saakshi Khattri at Mount Sinai Hospital, who also diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis. I thought I just had normal pain from walking and chasing the kids. But Dr Khattri said if the inflammation is so bad for your skin, it’s probably worse on the inside.
She recommended that I start taking a biologic. Biologics are new drugs that calm only the parts of the immune system that cause psoriatic disease.
The treatment was life changing.
I take secukinumab (Cosentyx) monthly injections. Now I only have a quarter point on my right ankle and my joints are excellent. I notice that when I have to do my next injection, my joints and skin start to bother me slightly. But they go away quickly when I get my next dose.
I told Dr Khattri that for years I had to ask my husband to open water bottles for me, which she said was not normal. Now I can do it myself!
Foods like dairy products, carbohydrates, and alcohol caused flare-ups. But now I can eat and drink whatever I want without any problem.
Stress is 100% a trigger for me. We have moved six times because of my husband’s job, and my skin has flared up every time except for our recent move from New York to Dallas.
My advice to anyone with psoriatic disease is to try a biologic if their doctor suggests and can afford it.
Ask your health care provider or pharmacist if insurance doesn’t cover the cost or even if co-payments are out of reach. Patient assistance programs or drug company co-payment cards can help. Your doctor may be able to find another medicine that works for you that insurance can cover.
Co-founder, Cordial Organics
Beauty and wellness products
I am not a big fan of pharmaceuticals. A natural approach coupled with lifestyle changes ultimately worked for me.
I first noticed a patch of psoriasis on my leg and was misdiagnosed with ringworm 30 years ago when I was 19. Eventually, it spread to the outside of my joints as well as to my hips, scalp and ears. At worst, it covered 40% of my skin.
I have tried cortisone injections, vitamin D creams, homeopathy, tanning beds etc. Nothing worked, and I gave up for many years and just lived with it.
Then I found out that I could manage my psoriasis using a layered approach.
- Diet. I eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables with little or no sugar or processed foods. I enjoy alcohol in moderation, like a glass of wine in the evening.
- Movement and stress management. The exercise clears my head and offers a new perspective. I do yoga almost every day and run several times a week.
- Sun and sea water. I lived in Costa Rica for 2 years and found that the combination of sun and salt water lightens my skin.
- Topicals. I use a psoriasis body wash with salicylic acid and a rich moisturizing balm that I developed.
Psoriasis actually led me to create my skin care line because nothing was working for me and I wanted to help others too.
This is what works for me. But here’s my advice to other people with psoriasis: try different things for relief. Keep turning the knobs to find what works for you.
Chinese and holistic medicine practitioner and acupuncturist
Healthy Skin Clinic
Surrey Hills, Australia
I was 11 and visiting family in Greece when my mom first noticed spots on the back of my neck. By the time we got home, they were stretched out on my arms. I went to see a doctor who told me it was psoriasis. He gave me cortisone cream and said, don’t worry, it will go away.
This is not the case.
I was bullied because of my skin in my early teens. I was a social person but I pulled back and wanted to be invisible. There was no way to hide my psoriasis as it was on my face and my hands.
By the time I was 16, psoriasis covered 90% of my body. I was hospitalized then and also later after my final exams during my last year of high school at the age of 18.
It was incredibly painful and itchy – my whole body was in pain. My skin was stiff and lost its elasticity due to psoriasis. I just couldn’t take it. Taking a shower caused pain. When I walked, the skin on my feet would crackle and bleed. Even the clothes hurt me, so I wore my cotton pajamas all the time when I was home.
My legs had so much water retention that they looked like 2 liter soda bottles. My mom drove me to school for my final exams because I couldn’t take the train and bus to get there. The day after I was admitted to the hospital that year, my many dermatologists visited me and were shocked that I had passed my exams. I told them I couldn’t do it again. I needed it so that I could focus on my health.
Fast forward to 1992. I was put on methotrexate and it worked. I felt amazing. Without warning, it stopped working and the psoriasis returned. I was devastated. My mom called the doctor and he said there was nothing else he could do, so we had to “find something else”.
Next come a blur of treatments including: UV treatments, tar baths, paraffin wax, colon irrigation, and vitamin infusions, to name a few. Some things made the symptoms worse, others better – for a while. Nothing had a lasting effect.
In desperation, I decided to try Chinese medicine. Two months after taking herbs and receiving acupuncture, my skin healed. Everything was normal and I was in shock. To help manage my skin and understand this medication, I decided to study it. I graduated in human biology and Chinese medicine.
This was just the start of an on-going journey of breaking down this disease step by step in order to truly understand its complexities and impact on so many other systems. Years later, I started my clinic dedicated to the treatment of psoriasis and other skin conditions. I connect with patients around the world through telehealth.
Today, I eat healthy and I avoid sugar, dairy products, alcohol, gluten and red meat. I exercise, meditate, and surround myself with family and good friends, and minimize contact with anyone who creates drama and stress in my life. All I do is reduce or avoid the inflammation in my body.
Yes, we can’t cure psoriasis, but there is so much we can do to keep it in remission. If I have a flare, I take my Chinese herbs, meditate and reassess why the flare has occurred, and make the necessary changes.