Gemma Boak was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis at age six when her mother took her to the doctor to ask why her chicken pox had not cleared up. Following a residential stay in the hospital at age seven she managed to control her psoriasis with trips to the Dead Sea in Israel, being coated in oil regularly (it was the 80’s) and the usual regimen of topical steroids and pUVA. Starting systemic therapy with Cyclosporine in her twenties she experienced life without Psoriasis for the first time before the side effects meant stopping treatment. It helped her realize that she wasn’t that different without Psoriasis which changed her approach from treatment to effective management.
She has eagerly followed the advances in psoriasis treatment and is grateful that we now have Biologics, which are continuously evolving and providing more options for treatment. Her biggest frustration is the single focused approach to treating psoriasis in conventional medicine. Her opinion is that this multi-faceted, dynamic disease requires the attention of multiple specialists; because this is not just a disease of the skin. She is frustrated that when seeking medical intervention, the only option provided is a dermatologist even though there are numerous studies supporting the effectiveness of a more holistic approach between specialists.
Her interests in advocacy started after being diagnosed with guttate psoriasis in 2012. Having initially been diagnosed as a young child, and before the internet was a thing, she had never visited the online space for information on psoriasis. Researching strategies to cope with the severe itching of a post Strep flare (and Prednisone induced Insomnia) opened her up to a plethora of online communities and approaches to managing the symptoms of psoriasis she had never come across before. Her experiences were mostly positive, but some encounters with dangerous advice inspired her to speak out.
As a Scientist, she enjoys reading the research on Psoriasis and sharing what she finds online. You can find her on Twitter at @gemma_boak and as the host of The Psoriasis Podcast.
Click here to read all of Gemma’s articles on plaquepsoriasis.com.