Friday 28 September 2018

#OneTwoFreeYourSkin - an ode to my psoriasis prone skin

Pale, prone to freckles and moles, up and down.
Doesn't tan much, more fond of shades of pink that sun-kissed brown.
Not something really thought about, it's just a part of me.
A part of me that everyone can see.

A red blotch appears one day.
And doesn't seem to want to go away.
Some moisture here, a good scrub there.
But it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

The patch becomes quite angry and sore.
It makes it's presence known, until I can't ignore it anymore.
Soon, this patch isn't alone, and more appear.
Another on my head, my arm, and then under here.

This isn't just a little itch to scratch.
My skin feels tingly and hot like a match.
It's spreading all over now, it just won't stop.
I think about it an awful lot.

Once just something never thought about.
Is something that I want to shout about.
I used to have some of my skin on show.
Now I hide it wherever I go.

Who wants to see red exposed skin?
No-one needs to know what I am living with.
Leggings in summer, long-sleeves a must.
A condition revealed only to those I trust.

Every day, it's hard not to let it overcome.
Who you are, what you do, how you have fun.
Your skin feels like it's against you.
And that it'll do what it likes, no matter what you do.

Everyone's different, and will respond in different ways.
To lotions and potions, applied several times a day.
Eating better, staying calm, getting fit.
You've got to try lots of things, do your bit.

When you find something that works for you.
Oh, how amazing that feeling is, it's true.
To have something take away some of the worst.
Make you feel in control, you're so happy you could burst.

It's something you need to build in each day.
Make time for yourself, treat your skin this way.
Regular care and attention can be the change.
So one day, you won't have to hide again.

I'm at an interesting place right now when it comes to my psoriasis. In case you've never heard of it, in brief, it's a skin condition that means a sufferer's skin cells reproduce much quicker than normal, leading to red, raised lesions and patches of white flaky skin on various areas of the body - most commonly scalp, ears and elbows but, in my case, almost everywhere (except my back, and to varying degrees).

It's relatively common, affecting three in every 100 people in the UK, and I'm one of those lucky three. It can be small and contained or all consuming. No-one really knows what causes it and as such, there's no definitive treatment and certainly no cure.

Topical creams are usually prescribed to help breakdown the build up of skin. Regular moisturising is required to help the skin retain moisture and not become too dry. Light therapy can be assigned and for some people makes a real difference (for me, it cleared things up beautifully, while the treatments lasted), although you have to be referred and can only have up to 200 sessions in a lifetime. Drugs can also be prescribed but they can affect your immune system so not everyone can take them (i.e. if you're trying for a baby within the next three years).

Psoriasis affects everyone differently, and everyone responds differently to the various treatments.

But there is no cure.

I've come to accept my skin condition. It developed more over six years ago as a patch on my scalp, it grew to take over my legs, last year it crept down my arms but today, it manifests in lighter parches on my thighs and shins mainly, with a couple of stubborn patches on my chest and tummy. Although baby, and pregnancy hormones, seem to have made many areas clear up or reduce in size and severity. 

When the psoriasis on my legs was at it's most severe - thankfully, it is much, much better now

It itches, it can get very sore and at times, it's really taken over - something I am always aware of it. There's no doubt that at one time, when it was particularly spread out and thick, it had a daily impact on me and I developed some anxiety and compulsive habits relating to my psoriasis. But I didn't - and won't - let it stop me. At least not always. I have to wear thick black tights or trousers or leggings to cover my legs, which are the worst affected area for me, but I don't worry too much if patches are slightly on show in other areas; I can't cover up everything!

I will wear a swimming costume when I go to a leisure centre or hotel - I just avoid looking at people in case they are looking at me and wonder what's wrong, do I have something contagious... I just smile, look ahead and pretend that everything is normal.

Denial is the best approach I have for dealing with it. It feels empowering, in fact. As if I am sticking two fingers up at psoriasis.

That's kind of what it feels like; like your skin is turning against you and you feel like you can either be knocked down or come back fighting.

I've always gone between being totally proactive when it comes to treating the symptoms of psoriasis, and just leaving it alone as it can take a lot of time to apply creams and topical treatments several times a day, particularly when you have several affected areas to deal with.

At the moment, I have quite a good routine and have found the following things have helped me:

Steroid cream - I was prescribed a steroid based gel a while back and it's the best topical solution I have used (I forget all the many other names of lotions and potions I have tried) to tackle my psoriasis when it was most severe. I can't use it during pregnancy however, so the next step is how I manage my condition now.

* Moisture, moisture, moisture - as it's a dry skin condition, regular use of body moisturiser is the best way to go, albeit time consuming.

My skin can feel quite tender so I've found a range that's actually designed for psoriasis and eczema prone and sensitive skin. Epaderm has a whole host of products designed to help, plus they have a junior range, which is just great as Ethan has sensitive skin like me and the lotion can double up as a wash, so we have some really gentle products to try come bathtime.

It's gentle, soft and soothes, which provides welcome relief, can I tell you!

Stress less - always easier said than done, but stress is thought to be a real factor and trigger for psoriasis suffers. When it's a stressful thing to have, it makes it a tough cycle to break.

I'm doing what I can to make more time for myself and to unwind, including a pregnancy yoga class.

Getting steamy - in the past, when I have been to a spa, I have always seen an improvement to my psoriasis and skin in general, particularly my complexion. I believe this to be the result of the steam room. I asked a dermatologist about the effects of steam rooms a while back and she said there wasn't any evidence - helpful - but doing my own reading seems to suggest that steam rooms can have a positive affect.

Saunas can dry skin, so not great if you already have dry skin to deal with, but steam rooms open up pores and help your body to sweat out all the nasties. The steam room at our new club was another attraction for me for this reason, and I also find it really relaxing.

So, this is how I am treating my psoriasis. By treating myself better and my skin to some nourishment (and a topical treatment when needed prescribed by the doctor).

Take that psoriasis!

* This post is part of an Epaderm competition

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