Psoriasis affects your body, mind, and spirit. There’s no cure, but healing and even remission is possible. The road to remission can be rocky with lots of stops and starts along the way. It’s a journey. And like any other, there’s more than one route to get there.
Here’s how three women have made peace with their disease and themselves.
In 2008, I had a flaky scalp that I thought was just dandruff. After about a year, it started to spread, and I was diagnosed with psoriasis.
At its worst, my body was completely covered. My face, ears, legs, back — no place was spared. I itched horribly, and when I scratched my skin, it bled.
For 10 years, I tried all different kinds of shampoos and skin creams. While living in Singapore, I visited the National Skin Clinic and started UVB treatments, which helped a lot. The problem is, as soon as I stopped going, my psoriasis came back.
When it was time to start a family, I wanted to avoid strong medications while pregnant. I just dealt with it the way I could.
We moved to New York, and I went to see a dermatologist to find relief. Eventually, I found Dr. Saakshi Khattri at Mount Sinai Hospital, who also diagnosed me with psoriatic arthritis. I thought I had just normal aches and pain from walking around and chasing after the kids. But Dr. Khattri said that if inflammation is this bad on your skin, it’s probably worse on the inside.
She recommended I start taking a biologic. Biologics are new medicines that quiet only the parts of the immune system responsible for psoriatic disease.
The treatment has been life-changing.
I take monthly injections of secukinumab (Cosentyx). Now, I have only a quarter-sized spot on my right ankle, and my joints are great. I notice that when I am due for my next shot, my joints and skin start to bother me slightly. But they quickly clear 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 wasn’t normal. Now, I can do it myself!
Food like dairy, carbohydrates, and alcohol used to cause flares. But now, I can eat and drink whatever I want with no problem.
Stress is 100% a trigger for me. We’ve moved six times because of my husband’s job, and my skin flared every time except for our recent move from New York to Dallas.
My advice to anyone dealing with psoriatic disease is to try a biologic if their doctor suggests it and they can afford it.
Ask your health care provider or pharmacist if insurance doesn’t cover the cost or even co-pays are out of reach. Patient assistance programs or drug company co-pay cards may help. Your doctor may be able to find another drug that works for you that insurance may cover.
Co-Founder, Cordial Organics
Beauty and Wellness Products
I’m not a big fan of pharmaceuticals. A natural approach paired with lifestyle changes eventually worked for me.
I first noticed a spot of psoriasis on my leg and was misdiagnosed with ringworm 30 years ago at age 19. Eventually, it spread to the outside of my joints as well as my hips, scalp, and ears. At its worst, it covered 40% of my skin.
I tried cortisone shots, vitamin D creams, homeopathy, tanning beds, and more. Nothing worked, and I gave up for many years and just lived with it.
Then I found that I could manage my psoriasis through a multi-layered approach.
- Diet. I eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables with little to no sugar or processed foods. I enjoy alcohol in moderation, like one glass of wine at night.
- Movement and stress management. Exercise clears my head and offers a fresh perspective. I do yoga most days and run several times a week.
- Sun and seawater. I lived in Costa Rica for 2 years and found that the combination of sunlight and salt water cleared my skin.
- Topicals. I use a psoriasis body cleanser with salicylic acid and a rich moisturizing balm that I developed.
Psoriasis actually led me to create my skin care line because nothing worked for me and I wanted to help others too.
That’s what works for me. But here’s my advice to others with psoriasis: Try different things to find relief. Keep turning the knobs to find what’s right for you.
Chinese and holistic medicine practitioner and acupuncturist
Salubre Skin Clinic
Surrey Hills, Australia
I was 11 years old and visiting family in Greece when my mum first noticed spots on the back of my neck. By the time we got home, they had spread to my arms. I went to a doctor, who said it was psoriasis. He gave me some cortisone cream and said, don’t worry, it will go away.
I was bullied because of my skin in my early teens. I was a social person but withdrew and wanted to be invisible. There was no hiding my psoriasis because it was on my face and 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 senior year in high school at age 18.
It was incredibly painful and itchy — my entire body was in pain. My skin was stiff and lost its elasticity due to the psoriasis. I just couldn’t stand it. Taking a shower caused pain. When I walked, the skin on my feet cracked and bled. Even clothes hurt, so I wore my cotton pajamas all the time when I was home.
My legs had so much fluid retention they resembled 2-liter soda bottles. My mum drove me to school for my final exams because I couldn’t catch 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 I actually sat for my exams. I told them I couldn’t do this again. I needed it finished so 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 came back. I was devastated. My mum called the doctor and he said there was nothing else he could do so we would have to “find something else.”
Next came a blur of treatments, including: UV treatments, tar baths, paraffin wax, colonic irrigation, and vitamin infusions, just to name a few. Some things made the symptoms worse, some better — for a time. Nothing had any lasting effect.
Out of desperation, I decided to try Chinese medicine. Two months after taking herbs and getting acupuncture, my skin healed. It was all normal and I was in shock. To help manage my skin and understand this medicine, I decided to study it. I completed degrees in human biology and Chinese medicine.
This was only the beginning of an ongoing journey to break down this disease bit by bit to really understand its complexities and how it impacts so many other systems. Years later, I launched my clinic dedicated to treating psoriasis and other skin conditions. I connect with patients worldwide via telehealth.
Today I eat a clean diet and avoid sugar, dairy, 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. Everything I do is to reduce or avoid inflammation in my body.
Yes, we can’t cure psoriasis, but we can do so many things to keep it in remission. If I do get a flare, I take my Chinese herbs, I meditate and reassess why the flare happened, and I make the necessary changes I need to make.