Monday, 19 August 2013

Struggling with my skin

For the past two and a half years, I have suffered with psoriasis. The word suffering is appropriate because, although it's no where near as serious as many other ailments and illnesses, to those who have psoriasis in any of it's annoying forms, they really do suffer.

I'm feeling a little sorry for myself at the moment as my psoriasis seems to be getting worse and more spread out and the course of treatments I've been given includes rather horrible lotions and potions than look, feel and smell horrible.

In case you don't know much about this delightful condition, in a nutshell, psoriasis is a skin condition which causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered in silvery scales and can cause itching and burning. Nice. It affects 2% of the UK population and can occur on any part of the body but is most common on the elbows, knees and scalp. Basically, the skin renews itself far quicker in the affected areas than normal which is why the skin becomes white and sheds itself so quickly when you have the condition. Attractive!

You have good days and bad but because it's a genetic condition, it's something you live with, not 'get through'.

My psoriasis started on my side of my head, under my hair, then spread across my scalp, currently covering about 80% of my head but luckily, not near my parting, aside from a patch the size of a ten pence piece at the front which I can just about hide. I then started getting it behind my ears, then inside and at the top, front part. And when I was pregnant, I started to get a patch under my growing belly which has since got bigger and more aggressive. I have a tiny spot at the base of my spine and I'm suspicious of a red rash I seem to have developed on my chest for the past couple of weeks - although I could be turning into a hypochondriac of sorts.

Before psoriasis first showed it's ugly head, I had always had problem skin on my legs. I now know that this is the common complaint of keratosis pilaris, or chicken skin as it's often referred to. For as far as I can remember, I've been upset by the spots on my legs, many of which have scared - I can remember writing about it in my diary when I was in year five. I've always hated my legs as a result and went to the extreme of buying some £22 tights because they were 40 denier, nude and promised to cover the worst of the marks so I could wear a short, summery dress to my son's christening last weekend.

I now feel like there isn't an area of skin on my body that doesn't have a mark on it. It can really get me down because I feel trapped in my own skin. I'm aware of it all day, all night and it's a compulsion I can't seem to kick. With psoriasis, your skin constantly renews itself so it can get dry very quickly. You wash your hair and reduce the whiteness as a result but within an hour, your skin is drying so you start to feel the skin growing back. It may be all in my mind, but that's what it feels like. Right now, I can feel at least three places where I would just love to have a little scratch. That's the problem with treatments - they work when you use them but when you stop, it's likely the red and white patches will return. The most effective treatments contain steroids so you can only use on some areas of skin for short periods of time. I have tried various things having had dermatology appointments for 18 months and generally there is success, it's just really hard to maintain when you have a baby and much nicer things to be doing.

I know that this isn't the nicest blog post you will read from me or anyone else but I just felt I had to write it to get it out of my system. It could be worse, far worse, I know - I could have psoriasis on my arms for instance or my face or even my whole body like some poor people have to deal with - but it's just hard to deal with sometimes as you feel quite alone in it all. Stress can trigger the condition too so it's self-perpetuating - who couldn't be stressed by their itchy skin, visible patches or the fact you can't just tie your hair up any old way for fear of showing off your unsightly skin? And don't even get me started about the constant little snow storm on your shoulders!

In a bid to make myself feel better and see if I can get my skin in general under control and in better condition, I've bought a couple of supplements and treatments to test. I've been reading great things about coconut oil which seems to work wonders in so many ways but is particularly good as a scalp and hair mask. Great, just what I need plus it'll smell far better than the god awful coal tar based treatments I have at the moment. I've also bought some Epsom salts - again, another big buzz on the health and beauty circuit - and great for skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. I'm also going to start taking a skin, hair and nail supplement that seems to have rave reviews so I can hopefully make sure I've got lots of goodness on the inside to help improve things.

Whether you have problem skin too or not, hopefully my future reviews on these products will be of interest as we all just want to feel the best we can in our own skin, don't we?

If you have any skin complaints, how do you deal with them? I'd love to hear from you.
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7 comments

  1. I fully know how you feel. My scalp and inner ears are covered and occasionally the bottom of my ears flare up. As a child my arms were bad but thankfully that disappeared after a good few years! When I was pregnant I had the worst patches on my thighs, but again it cleared up eventually. I completely agree with you that, you can feel it growing back soon after a shower!

    I find leaving the areas free from lotions and potions help me more, but I know... easier said than done! Especially when you NEED to claw at it! One of my daughters has a very weak form of it on her scalp too.

    To look at me, you'd never know I had anything wrong but it makes me so self conscience! I hated it when I was at school and couldn't resist the urge to itch any longer, but then worried people would think I had headlice haha.

    I hope something works for you, I look forward to reading reviews of them! xx

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  2. Thank you so much for commenting - it does help to talk about it and as much as loved ones try to understand, unless you have psoriasis, it's really hard to know exactly how it can make you feel.

    I know that mine is probably considered mild compared to what a lot of sufferers have to deal with but it's such a horrible thing to have and you're always aware of it.

    I've left mine for a couple of weeks but it's just built up and I find it so hard to leave it alone. About to go and soak my hair and scalp in coconut oil now.

    Like you say, even though most people wouldn't notice a thing (unless I tie my hair back), you feel so self conscious about it and I feel very lucky that my husband is as supportive as he is as it can't be very nice for him either.

    Thank you again for sharing x

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  3. Hi there,

    I've suffered from psoriasis for over 15 years, so I can totally relate to your frustration. I've had times when it's been calm, and other times when it's flared up appallingly (I was totally clear when pregnant however) I look forward to hearing how you get on with your supplements and alternative 'health' treatments as I'm always open to trying alternatives to steroids. Finally ... can I have the details on the tights you bought? Did they conceal the scarring on your legs? Helen

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    1. Hi Helen

      Thank you for your comment - it's been so nice to hear from other people who are in a similar situation to me. I'm finding it hard at the moment so talking to people like you really helps.

      I'll let you know about the treatments I'm trying - I have coconut oil on my scalp and hair as we speak!

      As for the tights, they didn't completely cover the red, darker areas on my skin but they certainly masked them well enough for me to feel confident in a shorter length dress. Here's the link - they were pretty shiny in their finish so a bit better for nighttime wear I think...

      http://m.houseoffraser.co.uk/Wolford+40+Denier+neon+tights/425030618,default,pd.html

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    2. I'm definitely going to look for those ... I can't honestly remember the last time I wore a dress in the summer. Winter is fine (God bless black opaques!) but this time of year is much trickier. Will be really interested to hear how the coconut oil works ... my worry is that it would make my hair very greasy so then I'd be swopping one type of itch for another! Look forward to hearing how you get on. Helen

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