Television helps pharmaceutical companies inform the public extensively about the current medications available to help those who suffer from psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. There are so many new drugs for these two autoimmune diseases, and each one comes with a list of side effects that would scare anyone away from taking them. How do you know if you have psoriasis?
I have had psoriasis since at least third grade. In 4th grade, I sat quietly at my math desk trying to add and subtract fractions. The school nurse popped into the classroom with her long Q-tip sticks and began digging through students’ hair to look for lice. Nervously, I squirmed, knowing they would find white psoriasis flakes and scabs on my scalp. I would be asked to leave the room in front of all the other kids, and they would think I had lice! I hoped the health ladies knew the difference between lice and psoriasis.
They didn’t. As I waited in the hall for further investigation of my head, I cried. This was my experience throughout my life; shame and pain. Itching without scratching, brushing away white flakes quickly as they fell from my head, wearing long sleeves and pants to hide my red circles topped with peeling, bloody white scabs of ugliness. Sometimes I was better, yet most times I was much worse. I did not understand this disease, nor did my parents, or doctors.
The family physician diagnosed me earlier in 3rd grade when Mom asked what the white crusty patch on my elbow was. I constantly picked at it and peeled it revealing a bloody red sore underneath. He immediately replied that it was the “heartbreak of psoriasis”, but Mom did not comprehend what that meant. He explained that he could send me to a dermatologist if it worsened. That winter; my entire body broke out in sores, and my mom thought I had ringworms. It covered 80% of my body. The family doctor referred me to another doctor, and I met Dr. Waller.
He prescribed various creams, lotions, and shampoos for years. Office visits consisted of the doctor, a grown man and a stranger to me, looking over my entire NAKED body to determine the level of disease, and then standing me in a small box of tube lights, while I slowly turned in circles, and flipped my arms inward and outward. This treatment was called UVB Therapy. The treatment burned my body each time like a sunburn, but it helped the plaques diminish. I was a developing girl, and ashamed of my body.
Keep in mind that my experience with a dermatologist began in the 60’s. Research has overwhelmingly created a great resource of help for those of us who suffer from psoriasis. I did not know much more about my disease than what I wrote above until I was 50-years-old. Now I know there are several types of psoriasis outbreaks; plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, nail psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, and erythrodermic psoriasis.
Plaque psoriasis is what I started at age 8. I only had one plaque on my elbow for about a year. I kept picking at it and it got bigger and uglier. It looked like a large red circle with a white crusty scab over the top. The scab can be quite thin or rather thick. I had quarter sized sores all over my body. Scalp psoriasis is usually this type except it grows on the scalp.
Inverse psoriasis grows in moist areas of the body where folds of skin overlap, such as, under the breasts, tummy, or other private areas. It looks like a red shiny area without scabs, and the skin is so thin, it can split and bleed. If you have large breasts, this type is awfully uncomfortable and can grow large in area. Unfortunately for me, I had it with size 36JJ!
Guttate psoriasis looks like small, red, round circles that may or may not have white crust. It tends to group in small clusters. Occasionally when I have been camping and get this type of outbreak, it is hard to determine if it is psoriasis or bug bites at first. On me, they usually start like small mosquito bites and then multiply by the day while growing a small crust.
Nail psoriasis can be mistaken for fungus, but it usually starts with thin or brittle nails marked by lines and pits. As it gets worse, the nail bed thickens and turns yellowish white. The nail begins to pull away from the bed, resulting in a nasty crumble of gunk underneath.
I cannot personally tell about pustular or erythrodermic psoriasis, but the Mayo Clinic has a great slide show depicting the different types of psoriasis. The link below will open a new page on their website. Just scroll down and click on the white arrows in purple boxes below the first slide. I would strongly recommend that you see a dermatologist if you have something similar. There is another disease, psoriatic arthritis, that affects 30% of psoriasis sufferers. If it is not treated early, it can destroy joints beyond repair.