Having a chronic illness is hard. Having more than one can be exponentially harder. I am lucky enough to be blessed with two such illnesses: psoriasis and asthma. Most of the time I am able to keep at least one at bay, and sometimes even both! However, when they both decide to flare up, I turn into a wheezing, flaking mess of a man.
I usually experience the double trouble flares in the winter. The cold, dry air not only turns my skin into jerky, but it also constricts my breathing. Add the increased risk of colds, flu, and pneumonia to the mix, and we have a recipe for a very miserable, itchy, breathless me. I know, I know—you all are picturing those famous memes of “the man cold” in your head, but I promise you that I am not over-exaggerating. When both flares hit me at once, a hospital visit is imminent.
Double trouble, plus one
One such winter, my wife called me to see how I was doing. She was able to detect that I was slurring my words and not making much sense. Most people may have thought I was drunk, but it was ten in the morning and she luckily knew me better than that. She hightailed it home to find me half-passed out with my usually very red colored skin tinted blue. She somehow got me to the car (I still am not sure how that happened—it must have been the adrenaline!), and rushed me to the ER.
Thankfully some steroid treatments fixed up my breathing. Not-so-thankfully, my skin was still in the same enraged state it had been prior. It was so parched and dry from the harsh weather, that tiny (and some not-so-tiny) cracks created a patchwork all over my body. As is common every time I go to the ER, the doctor on call was fascinated more with my scaly body than anything else, so he sent me home with some ointment that “was sure to work” (it didn’t).
Shiny inhaler and new tube-o-goo in hand, I thought I was right as rain– until a few days later when I developed two large burning sores on my back and a fever. It turns out that because my skin had opened wounds due to the psoriasis, I had picked up MRSA at the hospital. Unexpectedly, the skin I viewed just as a nuisance became the vehicle for a very serious infection.
I was able to avoid the hospital again and do a lot of home-care to combat the MRSA. I had to put hot compresses on regularly and do a trial-and-error with a couple different rounds of sulfur antibiotics. After a few weeks, I was finally clear of the dangerous, septic boils. The burning sores were gone, but I was left shaken. Even today, whenever my skin breaks, I worry about all the looming diseases that have an open door straight into my body.
I learned from the experience to be aware and cautious. Obviously, if I am having a medical emergency, I don’t delay care, but I do explore my options depending on my symptoms. If I am in the middle of a skin flare, and have another virus or health concern come up, I try first to avoid a visit to the hospital or even clinic. I will call my provider’s advice nurse, or use a telemedicine doctor. This keeps me from exposing my vulnerable skin to outside contaminants.
I am sharing my story not to create more fear about this disease (we face enough of that already!), but instead to shine light on a serious issue that often gets overlooked. A recent study showed that serious infections, including skin infections, have been consistently on the rise among psoriasis patients who have been hospitalized. I groan as I read this, as I am sure you are too. ANOTHER negative complication linked to my disease? Don’t lose hope. Be watchful, limit your exposure, and pay attention to your body. You know yourself best.