I’ve got severe psoriasis. It’s stress induced and I’ve got horrible red, itchy rashes all over my body. My legs, elbows, the palms of my hands, my back and even my feet are covered in horrible scaly plaques. Aged 37 I’ve now got psoriatic arthritis because of it. Here I wanted to share my personal battle with psoriasis, including the causes as well as the natural remedies and treatments which work best for me.
While I wrote about this a while back I thought to share my more personal experiences here for anyone else suffering from psoriasis too.
Of course, I’m not a doctor. Please, please, please speak to your doctor before changing your medication or diet.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. It’s an autoimmune disorder, i.e. it’s all connected to the immune system. Skin cells build up and cause itchy, flaky plaques.
This is a rushed photo I took for my doctor, but you get the idea. Recently my legs, arms and chest have been covered in plaques just like these ones.
What causes psoriasis?
In my case stress is the main trigger. It can even be ‘good stress’, like the excitement of moving to a new place. Although as far as I understand stress doesn’t cause psoriasis, it just reflects it.
Studies suggest it’s genetic. I’ll blame my dad, who also gets psoriasis on his elbows.
As it’s an autoimmune condition, this means that my psoriasis always gets really bad just after I’ve been sick or run down.
Apart from stress and general poor health there are other things that worsen my psoriasis too. The horribly hard water in my home city of Santiago de Chile doesn’t help. Abrasive shampoos really irritate my scalp. I’m sure the pollution here doesn’t do my skin any favours either.
Can psoriasis be cured?
I’ve tried lots of different types of treatments from hardcore steroid based creams to alternative diets and relaxation techniques.
Lotions and potions won’t cure the psoriasis, but they can calm the rash and make it much less visible and itchy.
It’s about getting to the root cause of why you have psoriasis in the first place. If it’s stress, then it’s important to take some time out. If it’s because you’ve been poorly, then when you recover chances are the psoriasis will calm down too.
Can psoriasis go away?
Yes. I’ve had horrible red raw rashes which have got so bad that they’ve bled.. and then they’ve disappeared completely in under six months. In my case it can flare up overnight, but then calm down over the cause of a few months.
I’ve written this post over a few days and as I’m getting over a bout of flu, my skin is improving dramatically. My rashes have almost disappeared from my arms after using a gentle moisturiser only (CeraVe – see below).
My arms were was bleeding a few weeks ago, but now I just have a few marks which you can barely see.
What are the best natural remedies?
I hate using steroid creams and gels. They thin the skin so much that they can’t be used in the long term, on the face or if 30% or more of your body is affected. Applying the gel to my scalp is annoying too. It’s super hard to wash out and I feel I end up stripping my scalp and hair just to get it clean.
As for natural remedies, I’ve heard that sandalwood applied topically with a carrier oil can help. I’ve also heard that turmeric can work wonders. My doctor has also advised me that omega-3 fish oils is important for keeping the skin hydrated and vitamin C can be useful for maintaining a healthy immune system.
If you’re in any doubt, speak to your doctor about getting a thorough health check. I was tested for calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrient levels.
I take an Omega-3 supplement now and I drink fresh turmeric with my lemon and ginger most mornings. Alas in my case when I get a really bad case of psoriasis the only thing that will bring it under control is a steroid based cream.
I use natural remedies in the long term and stronger medicine as and when I really need it.
Sleep, relaxation and a healthy diet help me most.
Can psoriasis cause arthritis?
At one stage my psoriasis got so bad that it was affecting my joints. I couldn’t flex my thumb and my hips ached. This is called psoriatic arthritis.
The pain would come and go. One day I couldn’t grip a glass, the next day I was fine. I would wear a wrist support on bad days and hope for the best.
I wasn’t suffering from any calcium deficiency, I was just really run down and the lack of sleep was taking its toll. After a few reasonable nights sleep my joints felt like new.
Does drinking water help?
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins. In my case when I get run down or a bad cold my psoriasis flares up. Drinking water helps alleviate my cold and in turn my psoriasis calms down.
Is alcohol bad for psoriasis?
So they say. Having said that I find a (small!) glass of red wine now and again is a lovely treat and helps me relax. If I’m relaxed my psoriasis tends to calm down, so…
I’m breastfeeding so I can’t drink too much alcohol anyway. We all know that too much alcohol and caffeine is bad for our general health so too much can’t be good for our skin either.
Is milk bad for psoriasis?
I went dairy free a couple of years ago for other reasons. While I feel much lighter and clearer for going dairy free, it hasn’t made a huge impact on my psoriasis. Stress and poor health are my triggers.
While my skin generally feels cleaner and clearer since I gave up dairy, my psoriasis hasn’t magically disappeared.
My legs are no longer bleeding. I just have little dry red spots here and there.
Is Vaseline good for psoriasis?
In my case, no. Once I got a skin flare up under my eyes and on my eyelids and I used Vaseline to try to soothe it. I found that Vaseline only created a barrier and my skin still flaked away horribly. That made me itch and it felt even worse.
Can sunlight help?
Apparently so. The issue is that if you’re using skin thinning creams you have to be especially careful not to get sun damage. I didn’t pay much attention while living in Angola and the area on my leg where I had really bad psoriasis is now covered in sun spots. Not a good look.
What is the best cream?
When I have a really severe case of psoriasis I resort to a cream called Dovobet (the white tubes with the red lids in the photo). It’s strong stuff and magically makes the rash disappear in a few days. I’m told a month of treatment on the scalp and two months on other parts of the body is enough to make it go away, but I find that after a couple of weeks maximum the rash has almost disappeared.
There is a catch, however. If I haven’t addressed the root cause of my bad skin, the rash just comes back as soon as I stop using the cream. You can’t continue to use the cream for extended lengths of time. My doctor advised me to use the cream every day to get rid of my rash as soon as possible and then stop using it. It’s not a cream to be applied every week or so on an ongoing basis.
I also La Roche-Posay on a regular basis as a body moisturiser after showering.
More recectnly, my doctor prescribed CeraVe, a rich, gentle moisturing cream which I love. It seems to have helped soothe my arms in particular.
I brought Dovobet from the UK and it’s not available in Chile. Consequently I also have two new drugs called Labosalic to use on my scalp and Xinder to be applied to other parts of my body when my Dovobet runs out. I haven’t tried them yet, so leave me a comment below if you have any questions.
While I generally don’t get psoriasis on my face, sometimes I find it creeping on my hairline. Just in case before bed I like to use a gentle facial oil. Right now I’m loving this SIBU oil which is packed with Omega-7 goodness.
Is it contagious?
No, but judging by people’s reactions you’d think it were! Some people think I have really bad insect bites. Some stare. Thankfully the rash rarely affects my face and as I’m past my self conscious teenage years it doesn’t really bother me.
I tell myself that stressing out doesn’t help things. In fact stress only makes psoriasis worse!