The first time I received a diagnosis of my skin condition, I was wrong: I was in fifth grade and a doctor told me I had eczema. The prescription he gave me didn’t work, and I had to go to two more dermatologists before one of them finally ordered a skin biopsy which showed that I actually have guttate psoriasis, a form of psoriasis that affects only about 8 percent of people living with psoriasis.
Guttate psoriasis—which often appears after an infection like strep throat or tonsillitis—it’s a less common type of psoriasis and it’s terrible: when I have a flare, my lesions are considered serious within two weeks. About 10 percent of my body will be covered in red spots that stretch from my head to my toes. (Many patients with guttate psoriasis find that their lesions are tear-shaped:gutta is the Latin word for gout.) The fact that my breakouts are all over my body makes it really hard to treat with creams and ointments. Topical treatments, like corticosteroids, are nearly impossible to apply from head to toe, even if you’re vigilant. Guttate psoriasis flare-ups are not isolated to smaller areas; they are Everywhere.
Although I was diagnosed when I was young (most people with guttate psoriasis develop it as children), it wasn’t until I was a young adult and my condition worsened that I made the commitment to learn everything I could about guttate psoriasis and treatment options, and finding a community to help me through really tough times. Having people who understand what you are going through is very important. Together, we share stories, laugh, cry, and hold out hope for a cure. When I go on psoriasis walks, it always brings tears to my eyes because people are met with so much love.
As I reflect on having been a patient for almost 20 years, I know that guttate psoriasis is such an important part of my identity, it’s something I’ve resisted for most of my life. I hide. I hated the way I looked. She was in pain and a great sense of hopelessness at being diagnosed with an incurable disease.
I am lucky to have been in remission for three years. But I also know that at some point an outbreak will come. I do my best to focus on living a healthy life, keeping my stress levels as low as possible, and surrounding myself with the people I love and who bring me the most joy.
Phototherapy (also known as light therapy or ultraviolet light exposure of lesions) has also been a game changer. It is a treatment option that works well for chronic psoriasis because it can work throughout the body. I’ve joked that it’s like going to a tanning bed three times a week. (Biologics are also a treatment option for some guttate psoriasis patients because they work to fight psoriasis from the inside out.)
I have also changed my diet and discovered that I have food sensitivities that affect my skin. While changing the way you eat doesn’t work for all patients, because not all patients have food sensitivities, it has personally helped me avoid risk factors and stay in remission for longer periods of time.