“Rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation.
Healing is an act of communion.” – bell hooks
When I was diagnosed with palmar plantar psoriasis, it was a dreaded confirmation of what I already knew. I witnessed my mom struggle for years with her painful hands and feet (and later with her scalp and eyes), so when my own palms began to crack and bleed and my feet began to peel and swell, I did my best to accept it and follow her path of treatment, pain management, and coping strategies. I was in my late 20s.
At that time, systemic treatments now regularly prescribed for psoriatic disease were just entering the marketplace to treat other autoimmune diseases and not readily available to psoriasis patients. So, like my mom, I was prescribed traditional systemics, topicals, and phototherapy as the standard course of treatment. It was messy, arduous, and painful. It took me many years and many tears to finally find a physician partner, effective treatment, and relief for the physical and emotional effects of the disease.
Widespread use of systemic drugs targeted specifically to psoriatic disease has changed the treatment landscape. Increased public awareness, improved standards of care, and complementary approaches to disease prevention and management have also empowered psoriasis patients in recent years. If you are newly diagnosed, take heart: Treatment and understanding have come a long way and resources abound. Here’s some of what I’ve learned along the way.
Better Together: You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
One of the first things I did when I was officially diagnosed was begin a search for better answers and other patients like me. While I waded through failed treatment after failed treatment, I devoured all the information I could get my sore hands on. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) became a trusted resource for me, and their Patient Navigation Center offers robust support for patients at all stages of their journey. I found refuge in a community of people living with and knowledgeable about treating psoriatic disease. The comfort and compassion I experienced in the NPF community remains one of the most soothing treatments of my psoriasis journey.
Specialized Care: Build Your Psoriasis Care Team
Working with a medical dermatologist who understands psoriasis and how to effectively treat it is an elemental but critical aspect of the journey. You may have to kiss a few frogs and sometimes playing the patient role can feel intimidating and vulnerable. It doesn’t have to. Collaborating with a specialist, keeping abreast of new treatments, communicating clearly and openly with your care team (which may include primary care, rheumatology, and mental health specialties) can build confidence and help ensure meaningful, comprehensive care.
Integrative Inspiration: Your Body Is Your Friend, Not Your Foe
Because psoriatic disease is so much more than a skin issue, deepening our understanding of its potential impact – both physically and emotionally – can support our overall wellness. There are a number of health problems related to psoriatic disease that, along with traditional therapies, may be addressed with proper nutrition, regular activity, stress management, and mental health awareness. My own journey has been an integrated patchwork of pharmaceutical interventions and alterative modalities focused on whole-body health and acceptance. I'm learning that it is often during the most heated moments of the body-mind battle that gentleness and self-compassion are the most sorely required.
Photo Credit: Karl Tapales / Moment via Getty Images
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