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Then and Now

I hope this isn’t psoriasis.” I heard my family doctor say this 50 years ago. I was 20 years old; I had no idea what psoriasis was nor what he meant by that comment. No one I knew had a clue what this was, either.  Not much was known about psoriasis in the sixties. The only explanation given back then was that psoriasis was “overactive skin cells”. They were reproducing faster than usual, and the dead cells were piling up on the surface of my skin. But, no one knew what was causing the abnormal activity. There was a lot of guessing. Stress was supposed to make it worse; that was never my case. Cuts to the skin were supposed to encourage plaque buildup. But, again, that didn’t happen to me.

A lifetime commitment

Within a few months, I was in Yale New Haven Hospital. Coal tar was the main ingredient in my creams and ointments. In the hospital, the treatment was coal tar as a black jelly spread all over, oily P&S Liquid in my scalp, and light treatments daily. I came to the realization that this was not a temporary but a lifetime condition, and I freaked.

Over the years I would play dot-to-dot with the expensive ointments and wear a plastic sweatsuit. It helped the medicine penetrate, but it flaked my skin.  I’d be picking up pieces of skin off the floor …yuck. Wrapping up in Saran Wrap after applying the ointments or creams, light treatments at home and at the dermatologist’s, — that’s the options I had. I even had two toenails removed that had been “attacked” by psoriasis. Sometimes the psoriasis would clear up, but then it always returned. I often felt there was no connection between the medication and the amount of eruption. I felt I was just going through the motions, pretending to treat my condition.

Commercials for the first over-the-counter treatment (Tegrin?) used the phrase “The heartbreak of psoriasis”. This phrase was picked up by comedians who always got a hearty laugh. Afterall, psoriasis wasn’t cancer or MS or heart disease or other debilitating diseases. But, it was heartbreaking. I didn’t have pain, but this disease was consuming a lot of time, energy, and money.

A renewed hope

Several years ago, my dermatologist suggested a new treatment, Enbrel. I refused for years until he said the word: inflammation. Now psoriasis has been identified as an autoimmune condition. The Enbrel shots would reinstate the body to a non-inflammatory condition. That’s what I needed to hear. Now I’m having Stelara injections. These new biologic medications have been incredibly effective for me. The biologics are a great step forward in treating psoriasis. Have you discussed them with your doctor?

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