Click here for COVID-19 (coronavirus) advice for people living with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Jess G's Story
Jess has struggled with her psoriasis since she was a young child. Here she shares her turbulent journey with the condition, and how making lifestyle changes has helped her to regain control of her skin.
I have had psoriasis for as long as I can remember. I have had plaque, guttate, pustular and inverse psoriasis as well as psoriatic arthritis. At first, it was only on my thumbs. My parents worried this was because I sucked them and bandaged my hands at night. Unsurprisingly, that trick didn’t work and it spread over my hands and to other parts of my body. Learning to write was tough with bleeding hands and joints I couldn’t straighten. I often found it painful to walk and, after school, my mum used to peel my bloody socks off.
I went through all the treatments I was offered: steroids; coal tar; daily hospital trips for UVB and PUVA and even inpatient admissions for Dithranol applications. Nothing worked. My psoriasis got worse and by the age of 12 it covered 30-40% of my body including my face, scalp, back, chest, legs, hands and feet. That’s when the doctors decided to bring out the big guns and started my first course of immunosuppressants. I took Ciclosporin and spent weeks having treatment at La Roche Posay in France and was finally psoriasis free for the first time in my life! It was amazing and definitely made those awkward teenage years more bearable.
Unfortunately, 3 years later it started creeping up again. As before, it was stubbornly treatment resistant and the areas affected were very severe: fissures, red raw skin and a trail of flakes wherever I went. I tried all the treatment options again but this time even years on a cocktail of Ciclosporin and Methotrexate didn’t work. The next few years I tried it all again and even went to the Dead Sea but nothing really worked and I lived with it the best I could.
In 2014, I went away to Asia for a few months and after weeks of relaxation and sunshine my skin cleared up almost completely. That was the first time I really believed that emotional and nutritional factors had a big impact on my skin. The following years, my skin gradually got worse again with the stress of a Masters degree. I work as a Speech and Language Therapist on hospital wards and my hands were so bad that I wasn’t allowed to work with patients. I stopped exercising after watching my hands and feet bleed and peel on my mat in a yoga class. Those were pretty low points for me and I did a course of CBT to help me deal with my feelings about my skin, which was quite useful.
My boyfriend suggested I look for support on Instagram and that’s when I discovered Hanna Sillitoe and her Radiant book. I changed my diet, tried gentle exercise and weaned myself off steroids. After a few tough weeks of steroid withdrawal, my skin started to improve a little. I also started seeing a psychotherapist, which was a game changer for me and allowed me to explore my emotional triggers and stressors. I also make all my own creams, oils and scrubs now and have even started a diploma in organic skincare formulation to develop my new skills!
My scalp and hands are completely clear now. I still have a little bit on my legs and feet but I’m so happy with the results. I don’t follow a strict diet at the moment but now know how to control my skin if I need to, which is an amazing feeling.