Alison Johnson* was diagnosed with psoriasis in her late teens. Large, white, itchy, bleeding scabby lesions covered her body. It caused excruciating pain. Too often, the itch was worse than the pain.
Alison suffered in silence as she applied creams for the pain, and carefully selected clothing to hide her psoriasis from wondering eyes, intrusive questions, and unwarranted comments. And while Alison was seeing doctors and doing all she could in secret, her family and friends were unaware of the full impact of her diagnosis.
Alison wasn’t alone. One million South Africans face the daily trauma of psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that can have devastating effects.1
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a lifelong condition that develops when the skin cells multiply faster than normal, causing inflammation and leading to the build-up of skin cells, showing red patches, covered in white scales on the skin.2
Dermatologists can diagnose psoriasis in children and adults, men and women, and cases vary from mild to severe.3
People with the condition may notice their psoriasis go through cycles of inflammation months at a time, subside and then reappear again.4 Psoriasis flare-ups can be triggered by several factors including infection, stress, injury to the skin, and medication.4
Psoriasis and mental health
Living with psoriasis is more than skin deep. Mental health conditions, such as low self-esteem and depression can develop.4 Over the course of her life, Alison’s psoriasis affected her self-esteem. Her shame resulted in her isolating herself, which eventually lead to depression.
Peter Johnson*, Alison’s son shares his mother’s story about living with psoriasis.
Psoriasis affects more than the skin
Many people with psoriasis are at a greater risk of diabetes and cholesterol1 And they’re at risk of psoriatic arthritis,2 which affects at least one in three people already living with the condition, and causes swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints.2
As Alison’s psoriasis advanced, she also showed symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. Her joints were inflamed, and she couldn’t use her hands properly, making everyday tasks like brushing teeth, opening doors and making the bed extremely challenging and painful. Alison didn't have the confidence to hold her baby grandchildren, for fear of letting them go.
Breakthrough treatment can achieve clear skin
Although there is no cure for psoriasis, treatment is available for this life-threatening disease. Effective and breakthrough treatment can reduce the symptoms, and slow skin cells' growth, relieving the itch.2
Depending on the severity of a psoriasis diagnosis, dermatologists can prescribe treatment, such as
- Creams or moisturizers to treat the dry skin2
- UV light therapy, which slows the growth of skin cells2
- Systemic medications are taken orally, and is prescribed to patients who don't respond to, or are unable to take topical medications or UV light therapy.5 This treatment works throughout the body.5
- Biologics are new treatments for psoriasis, and blocks specific cells and proteins, controlling the inflammation,and some make clear skin a possibility.5,6
Unlike Alison, people living with psoriasis can access breakthrough treatment to relieve them of the pain and discomfort of this condition. In fact, achieving clear skin for long periods with effective treatment is possible. If you need treatment for your psoriasis, speak to a dermatologist and appeal to your medical aid for access to treatment that can make clear and healthy skin, your reality.
The #MoreThanSkinDeep Facebook pageis a valuable resource that shares information about the impact of living with psoriasis
*Names have been changed, to protect the patient and her son’s privacy.
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- Health24. Severe psoriasis linked to earlier death. https://www.news24.com/health24/Medical/Skin/News/severe-psoriasis-linked-to-earlier-death-20170908. Accessed on 27 January 2021.
- WebMd. Psoriasis. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/understanding-psoriasis-basics. Accessed on 6 February 2021.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Psoriasis: More than skin deep. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/psoriasis-more-than-skin-deep. Accessed on 6 February 2021.
- Mayo Clinic. Psoriasis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840. Accessed on 6 February 2021.
- National Psoriasis Foundation. Systemics. https://www.psoriasis.org/systemics/. Accessed on 8 April 2021.
- National Psoriasis Foundation. Biologics. https://www.psoriasis.org/biologics/. Accessed on 9 February 2021.