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S#!t People Say about Psoriasis

Merritt shares the most memorable questions she’s been asked.

Merritt is one of our community writers and lives with psoriasis. She resides in New York State where she works as a marketing account executive and hopes her personal stories will help uplift and empower others in the psoriasis community. 

Living with psoriasis isn’t a walk in the park. I’m always dealing with the internal question-and-answer struggle:  

“Does this shirt show my plaques?”  

“Will these jeans make me uncomfortable today?” 

“Is my psoriasis going to flare up while I’m at work?” 

On top of that, you sometimes deal with the external Q&A, which can feel more overwhelming than the meager internal dialogue. It usually occurs on weekends and vacations when my plaques are visible, mainly because I'm more laid back and carefree during those times. (I always keep my plaques covered up while at work due to the nature of my industry - interfacing with clients and colleagues in meetings.) It’s been in those times when my plaques are exposed that family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers notice my skin and broach the subject to ask me questions.  

The S#!t They Say 

Whenever someone asks a question, I try my best to answer thoughtfully and knowledgeably. More often than not, I’m happy to engage in the conversation and share my own personal experience. Here are a few of the more memorable questions that have come my way and how I’ve chosen (thoughtfully!) to answer them: 

  • Are those bug bites on your legs?
    • Me: Those would’ve been some hungry bugs! No bug bites, but it is psoriasis. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes my skin cells to regrow too rapidly, causing the red, bumpy look.1 But it is sometimes itchy like bug bites!
  • Do you have a rash on your arms?
    • Me: It’s not a rash - it’s psoriasis. (with a smile) Don’t worry, it’s not contagious.
  • Is that a burn?
    • Me: Not a burn - it’s psoriasis. It’s a skin condition that affects almost 125 million people worldwide.2 That’s a decent amount.

  • What happened to your skin?
    • Me: I have psoriasis, which is a skin condition caused by an overactive immune system. Basically, the skin cells regrow too quickly, which leads to the red, flaky patches on my skin.3
  • Is psoriasis contagious?
    • Me: Nope!
  • How did you get it?
    • Me: Research is being done every day to help determine why people get psoriasis, and although there have been breakthroughs, there’s still a lot to find out.5 When I was about 25-years-old, I started to notice little red dots on my shins. I used a million different lotions but nothing was working to clear them up. When I finally went to the dermatologist, she confirmed it was psoriasis. That was the beginning of my ongoing journey with the skin condition.  

 

  • It’s just a skin disease, right?
    • Me: It is a skin condition, yes. However, it’s much more than that. It can be hard to deal with mentally too. Sometimes, when I’m going through a tough flare up I feel discouraged, even unattractive. Also, my joints can often feel stiff or sore.4 My 30th birthday just passed, but I feel closer to 80 sometimes!
  • It doesn’t hurt or anything, right?
    • Me: Yes and no. There will be days - especially in the summer - when my skin doesn’t itch or hurt too much - I barely remember I have psoriasis. Then there are other days when I cannot seem to get relief. My skin will itch so much it almost feels like a burning sensation. Other times, it can feel like little pinpricks. 
  • How do you deal with psoriasis?
    • Me: Every day is a little different and every person lives with their psoriasis a little different. It’s important to feel good in my skin. For me, doing something physical, whether that’s yoga or a long walk can help me get my mind off psoriasis. Even doing arm exercises in my basement seems to put me at ease!

 

My Response

Like I said, I’ll always answer openly and honestly. Not everyone has psoriasis, and it’s not the “norm.” So, people are naturally curious and inquisitive. Perhaps if I can keep answering the questions and sharing what I know, psoriasis will become more of the norm. If you have psoriasis and encounter questioning about your skin, you can use my above answers to help address those. Just remember, knowledge is power so the more people that know about psoriasis, the better for all.

Speaking of questions, what are some you’ve been asked about your psoriasis? What questions do you wish you had the answers for?

  1. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) website. "Skin Allergy Overview." Accessed July 2016. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/skin-allergy
  2. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) website. Accessed July 2016. Available at: http://www.aafa.org/page/hives.aspx
  3. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) website. "Skin Allergy Overview." Accessed July 2016. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/skin-allergy
  4. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) website. Accessed July 2016. Available at: http://www.aafa.org/page/hives.aspx
  5. Website “Mayo Clinic” – Causes. Last accessed: 09.10.15 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355840

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