Sunday, November 06, 2005

Friday, 8 October 2004
Psoriasis History
Ok, I decided that I would add a bit of a background to my psoriasis problem.

It first started when I was quite young-under 10. It was mostly on my scalp. The biggest problem was the noticeable itchiness and ensuing flakes in my hair. The flakiness alone caused a lot of teasing from kids and the itching caused me to scratch which caused greasy hair. So, I was the dirty haired kid with dandruff (since most bullies can't really tell the difference between dandruff and psoriasis). At times my scalp would be so itchy I would just scratch and scratch until I started to bleed. After a while, I learned a lot of self-control. Now I only usually scratch in a controlled way and sometimes if I'm particularly tired. I am guilty of vigorously rubbing spots to remove excess skin though.

At some point I also developed psoriasis on my back, torso, legs and arms. I remember seeing my family doctor about it and also a dermatologist (although I only saw him a couple of times). The treatment that they recommended was to get lots of sun (UV is supposed to help some people; I've never seen a lot of difference with mine in the sumer vs. winter though) and to apply a steroid cream and liquid to my scalp.

Over the years my psoriasis problem just continued to get worse. There were fluctuations of course, but I didn't see any real improvements until the last 5 or 6 years. The different treatments that I remember are: steroid cream, applying baby oil to my head to soften the spots so the steroid can be more effective, tar shampoos, soaking in tar baths, and we even tried a home brew recipe involving a tea you apply to your skin made from yellow flowers.

The steroid cream sort of worked. I had to have my mom apply it to the worst parts on my back and the back of my legs. I hated it. It always depended on someone else remembering it and it was just unpleasant. The baby oil and soaking in tar oil were also despised by me. The baby oil usually made my fine blonde hair look greasy the next day. I soaked in oil baths until the water was cold and I felt chilled. Then had to have another bath to get the oil off. That was around the time when puberty began so I generally felt oily and dirty all the time. Not very pleasant. The tar products also had a distinctive odour. So, I was the greasy, flaky, smelly kid (at least in my mind).

The psoriasis problem continued and eventually my doctor recommended a cream called Dovonex. It worked quite well, but was quite expensive. I always remember my mother commenting on how much it cost and feeling guilty because we were not rich people and my skin issues were costing a lot of money. So, I didn't use it regularly or copiously for it to really work. I usually only used it on my hot spot areas: areas that were particularly bad or very visible. For instance, all around my hairline I used it so that it wouldn't be as visible. I also developed some spots on my face around my eyes and nose that I hated because they were visible to anyone who looked at me. I can cover my back with a t-shirt and my legs in long pants, but my face is visible every moment I'm out.

The total list of body parts that are affected by psoriasis are as follows: scalp, ears inside and out, the inner edge of my eyebrows, the sides of my nose, my neck (comes and goes), underarms, back, breasts, upper ribcage, bellybutton, hips, groin, calves, and feet.

More recently since I've been paying for the Dovonex cream myself and using it, I've been applying it more regularly and generously. It has been working to diminish the psoriasis, although I'm not completely rid of it.

The biggest impact that this disease has had on my life is psychological. I am always sure people can see the lightest manifestation of psoriasis on me. I am very sensitive of the look of my skin. When I was younger I didn't have a lot of self-confidence and the early teasing probably contributed to that. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in clothes that were slightly revealing. Even standard bathing suits made me feel uncomfortable. I can remember mother's pulling the kids out of pools because I was there and they thought their kid would catch the chicken pox from me.

Apart from the psychological aspects I have to deal with constant itching. It's always present even though I don't usually scratch. The spots are also sometimes painful. My ears and bellybutton are affected and I can't wear earrings because the skin builds up in the holes and causes infections. I was also once denied service at a place that braided and wrapped hair because they thought the red marks were a sign that I might have had aids (this was when aids anxiety was very high).

There are also more positive effects that this disease has had on my life. For instance, I am very clean now. I keep my hair incredibly clean so that I never have that greasy blonde look again. I have a lot of self-control when it comes to itching--mosquito bites don't even make me bat an eyelash. I also have developed the habit of moisturizing as much as I possibly can; a habit that will keep my skin looking good for a long time. I also started shaving my legs daily because I couldn't stand any extra itching that hair regrowth would cause. Now my leg hair barely grows and is still really thin and light so even if I let it go for a couple of days, no one can tell. Plus, I'm a shaving pro who never gets razor burn and can shave very quickly without any discomfort.

When I was younger, I never really sought out alternative treatments. I just thought of my problem as a "cross" I would have to bear my entire life. In the past 5 or 6 years, I have been doing some of my own research into the causes and treatments of psoriasis. I learned that it's basically hit or miss with treatments. Some people eliminate certain foods and it works, others supplement their diets, others just use the skin creams, etc. One of the things that was almost universally suggested was to increase the intake of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are found in flax seed and oily fish (herring, mackerel, etc.) Well, I hate fish. So I have been trying to add flax to meals for the past few years. It doesn't taste terrible, but after a while, it started to get very banal. Plus, it was a pain to grind it and bring it along or add it to every meal. I wasn't getting nearly enough to be effective. My boyfriend and I even started buying omega-3 eggs to try to add it that way, but I can't eat eggs every day either.

So finally there is this omega-3 fish oil that is supposed to work wonders, so I'm trying it out. I am very hopeful that it will work. It is a quick and easy treatment. It is a bit costly (around $20 per 5 weeks or so, I'll have a better idea when I've used it for longer) but it is also a natural product that I don't need a prescription for.

Well, back to scratching and watching for now.

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