David's Story

In his story David documents the ups and downs of living with psoriasis throughout his 37 years in the military and on Mountain Rescue operations.

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Few who read this will know I have psoriasis yet I spent 37 years in the military with it. I have been hospitalised three times for several weeks at a time when they had a Skin Ward at Raigmore Hospital near Inverness in the early 70s. Those days it was a very basic treatment covered in tar products. It was very hard and upsetting for a young guy. The RAF Doctors had very little clue how to deal with it and many treatments and ointments made the raw skin a lot worse.

The initial signs for me were a red skin rash on my head, legs, arms and trunk that got worse and worse. Soon about 40% of my body was covered. I was very active at this time with the RAF Mountain Rescue and playing football and other sports. The rash got raw after a day of heavy physical activity and actually bled with the constant rubbing of clothes. It was so painful and few knew what the rubbing after a 12 hour hill day did to your skin. It became pretty obvious and I got a few cutting comments - did I have "Scabies"? "Is it contagious?"

Eventually I was sent to Raigmore Hospital for three weeks of constant treatment with tar products, which ruined any clothes you had. The nurses were great and they had to administer some of the tar-based creams, it was a hard job but seeing many others a lot worse than me made me accepts it was life.

There were increased bouts of it and it was always worse after a winter and meant that there were few summers I could wear shorts and light clothing. I was very embarrassed about my skin and my appearance and the best way for me to cope was to cover it up, not easy in the hot weather. Sun can be a great help with the disease and wearing clothes made you sweat - it became a long battle every year.

Treatment of my condition was very hard trying to get somewhere private to apply creams, especially when away most weekends with the RAF Mountain Rescue in village halls or tents with limited showering facilities or privacy. Most of the team accepted it and I got used to educating them about my condition. 

Psoriasis can be hereditary but no one in my family had it, but I have worked out that it can be affected by stress, and one thing for me is trauma. This was especially after an upsetting Air crash or an upsetting Mountain Rescue Call Out. Also if I get an illness or I am sick then it can explode and the process begins again.

I was very lucky as all my girlfriends accepted psoriasis was part of my life but it did put a strain on relationships and even holidays by the sea were dependent on the state of my skin. I was posted to the Persian Gulf in 1974 for 9 months and the sun definitely helped and it was one of the few times I was free of psoriasis in my life. It was hard at first as I arrived with the condition fairly flared up and you cannot hide it when wearing shorts. Eventually people accepted it and the sun did work and cleared my skin.

I have had most treatments in my life, even taking part in early light treatment in Dundee which made you very susceptible to light as you were given a tablet before treatment. This made you very affected by the sun for 24 hours, not easy if I had a Mountain Rescue Call out after treatment. I have tried all types of creams but the light treatment nowadays is very effective if time-consuming. It is very hard to get a place and this treatment takes several months usually going three times a week and building up from a few seconds to minutes, all controlled by the wonderful nurses. Treatment has become better but the waiting list is long for the UV treatment.

Today I have the time to look after my skin a bit better, keep the areas moisturised and treating the areas as they occur with modern creams. Unfortunately some include steroids and must be used sparingly. I find alcohol does not help, and eating well and getting some sun after a long winter always helps.

It is not life threatening but can make life hard for many, after 40 years I can cope and if you or a relative have psoriasis maybe this will help? I have it every year but It is great when it clears and you can go about in shorts, swim again and wear light clothes, simple things but such a great feeling. I can go swimming with my Grandkids again if I want to.

The local Dermatology staff in my Elgin hospital - their care is superb but their facilities are so limited - one phototherapy machine for so many. Gone are the days of Skin wards but they are so good with the limited facilities they have, we could achieve much more with better funding. But who seems to care or understand and who do I contact to put my worries forward on the limited facilities?

My advice is do not be afraid to talk about it to friends. Most are fine about it and many have this condition. Get professional help, see a dermatologist when you can and hopefully one day there may be a solution to this awful disease.

I had been asked to help with an NHS video a few years ago about psoriasis from my friends in the Dermatology Department at Doctor Gray's hospital in Elgin. I have been unfortunate to have had this awful skin disease since I was 17. It can be a terrible and fairly unknown disease that the general public know little about. I was going to do a piece on my blog about it to try to spread the word, this video has hastened it and it may help others.

To many psoriasis is a disease that few know about or understand and can be a huge blow especially for a young person. It is a hugely embarrassing thing with your skin looking terrible and red raw at times, it affects your whole life.

Thanks to all who help us, especially the Dermatology Department at Doctor Gray's in Elgin who are superb, and I will be hoping to get to see you again when I start my treatment.

Read more real-life stories from people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

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