I Don’t Look Like You

I am an African-American woman in her late fifties with very dark skin who in addition to battling psoriatic arthritis since my forties, has battled plaque psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, and guttate psoriasis.

What’s been especially challenging in my lifelong struggle with psoriasis has been the general lack of information as well as a medical community lacking in knowledge when it comes to psoriasis in people of color. When I was a teenager I used to go to the library and try and find pictures of someone who looked like me. I spent countless hours searching for just one photo. After months and months of searching and coming up with nothing, I believed I was alone in this world and there was no one like me with psoriasis.

I did find some photos of Caucasian people with psoriasis, but their psoriasis never looked like mine—nowhere close.  My psoriasis was always very dark and thick.  They had red or pink patches of thickened skin that were covered with whitish scales, just like the articles that described what psoriasis looked like. This was not me.

Not all doctors

In the town where I was raised, we didn’t have a physician who knew anything about psoriasis.  At the age of five, I was taken to the nearest town that had a dermatologist.  When I started going to this doctor, a Caucasian male, he actually looked directly at my skin and said he knew I had psoriasis by my white silvery scales. What!!

As a child of color, this was extremely confusing because guess what: I didn’t have white silvery scales on me!

Then over the next 40 years, I went to many doctors. One doctor would tell me he knew I had psoriasis because it was on the back of my elbows and on the front of my knees.  This was odd and very funny to me since I had psoriasis over 70% to 80% of my whole body, my whole life, not just my elbows and knees.

Not only did every doctor I went to tell me a different story—they put me on a different treatment. I remember seeing a doctor who gave me a tube of cream. Now, remember, for most of my life,  70% to 80% of my body has been covered with this disease, and putting creams on me made me a wet, greasy mess—not a great look for someone who worked in the corporate world.  What’s more, the tube only lasted for two days.

Someone told me my skin was different from people who are not like me. They said I needed a doctor who knew about black skin. I believed this; mostly because I was always covered in psoriasis that never got better and my psoriatic arthritis started to kick in really bad at that time. Also, there were not many doctors of color when I was growing up, and definitely not many knowledgeable about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

So I set out to find a doctor of color who specialized in psoriasis; I found one. While in the care of this doctor, I developed the worst case of psoriasis ever, erythrodermic psoriasis. The dermatologist looked at me and said, “I don’t know what to do for you.”

Well, right then and there, I knew the color of my doctor didn’t matter!!

The good doctor

That day I made up my mind to search out and find a good doctor who specialized in psoriasis. I found a doctor. He is Caucasian and the best doctor ever. His name is Dr. Ronald Prussick out of Rockville, Maryland.  I have been with him for 11 years and have never looked back.

This is what I learned:  When it comes to finding a good doctor, color should never come into play.

But how can you find a good doctor?

You need to have a good understanding of psoriasis before your appointment. Make sure you have a list of questions to ask such as what causes psoriasis, how do you diagnose it, what can trigger flare-ups, what are the risks of my medications, and can you treat it?

Unfortunately, awareness for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis is low in the African-American community and other minorities. We need to find more research and bring more awareness to this disease so that we can get the proper treatment that is needed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The PlaquePsoriasis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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