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Living with psoriasis

Lisa King

Living with psoriasis

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Stress associated with the death of one of her closest friends caused Kamlah Browne’s body to react in ways that she never expected.
She had never had any problems with her skin until it started to flare up, itch and get dry and flaky. These patches on her skin became very itchy and painful and would sometimes crack and bleed. Her fingernails and toenails became discoloured and started to crumble or detach from the nail bed.
She was diagnosed with psoriasis.
For the past seven years she has been battling this ailment that has not only taken over her skin but her life in that she has to carefully monitor what she eats, wears and uses on her skin.
Psoriasis is a skin condition that is characterized by skin cells that multiply faster than normal, sometimes ten times faster than normal. As underlying cells reach the skin’s surface and die, their volume causes raised spots and patches covered with white scales are seen.
The areas of the body where psoriasis typically occurs are on the knees, elbows, and scalp and can also affect the palms, and soles of the feet.
There are many forms of psoriasis with differing symptoms, each type differing in location, severity, and duration. The most common is called plaque psoriasis while another common type is called pustular psoriasis which is characterized by red, scaly, cracked skin on the palms of the hands and or feet with tiny pustules.
The condition, which can come on quite suddenly, is caused by a variety of factors ranging from emotional stress, infection and an abnormality in the immune system. The condition also tends to run in families and doctors believe that external stressors such as recent emotional trauma, for example, a new job or the death of a loved one, serve as triggers for the condition in people who may have inherited defects in immune function.
Most outbreaks are relatively harmless and with appropriate treatment the symptoms subside within a few months. There is no cure for psoriasis and the condition comes and goes in cycles of remissions and flare-ups over a lifetime and has to be controlled.
There are several ways that psoriasis flare-ups can be managed. One of the simplest ways is to moisturize the skin. Keeping skin moist helps reduce dryness, itching, redness, soreness, and scaling. Ointments are thick, heavy, and good at locking moisture in, while lotions are thinner and smooth on easily. The moisturizer should be applied gently after bathing and reapplied during the day as needed.
Another remedy would be to have a daily warm bath using a mild soap.
Do not use hot water or harsh soaps as they tend to irritate and dry already stressed skin. Following the bath, the skin should be gently patted dry instead of rubbing because rubbing not only irritates existing lesions, but can also cause new ones.
Sunlight is also good at relieving psoriasis skin, but it is highly recommended that sufferers reduce their stress levels as it is known that stress can inflame psoriasis and increase itching.
Eating right, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of exercise can help to keep the body stress-free and it also makes the body better able to fight off infections that may trigger flare-ups.
Psoriasis skin is very sensitive and sufferers must avoid any harsh products such as deodorant soaps when caring for their clothes. Rough clothes can also aggravate the skin.
Because psoriasis is a condition that makes the skin itchy, it is hard to say that people should stop scratching and picking. Scratching can tear open the skin which can lead to infection causing bacteria entering the skin and patches to appear where there were none.
“I cannot remember ever being without at least one itchy site,” related Kamlah. Over the years her psoriasis has cropped up in various places on her body, including her elbows and hands, but especially her feet.
Her feet are the worst affected, especially between her toes which crack open spontaneously without scratching. In addition, she said her hands are always either itchy or sore from scratching.
Often embarrassed by the condition of her feet, she has developed the habit of hiding them. However, after trying different treatments suggested by dermatologists over the years, the flare-ups have become fewer.