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Stanford Medicine

Autoimmune Disease, Chronic Disease, Dermatology

My two-decade battle with psoriasis

My two-decade battle with psoriasis

We’ve partnered with Inspire, a company that builds and manages online support communities for patients and caregivers, to launch a patient-focused series here on Scope. Once a month, patients affected by serious and often rare diseases share their unique stories; the latest comes from Alisha Bridges.

Psoriasis has affected every aspect and transition of life that I’ve encountered thus far. I’ve had the itchy, flaky, non-contagious autoimmune disease since I was 7 years old; I’m now 26. As I approach the 20-year anniversary of encountering the disease, I think of how my treatment has evolved, and as I reflect on the differences in treatment between then and now, it’s a Catch-22 in some ways.

It all started after a bad case of chicken pox. My scars weren’t healing correctly. They looked crusty and inflamed. After more than 90 percent of my body remained covered with this mysterious rash, my grandmother decided it was time for me to see the doctor, who diagnosed me with psoriasis. The positive side was that I had Medicaid as insurance, and it covered any and everything I needed. But unfortunately, due to my age, there weren’t many treatment options. From the age of seven to 19, I was prescribed an array of topical treatments and UVA light treatment, none of which were really effective in ridding me of psoriasis. The treatments just kept it at bay.

Once I went to college, treatment became more challenging. First, I went out of state for college, so the only time I could get treatment was when I came home for winter vacation. This particular treatment required me to stay in the hospital for three weeks, which was basically my entire winter break. Once I realized a treatment twice a year wasn’t going to be effective, my family attempted to find me a doctor near my school. The only caveat then was that Medicaid is state-to-state; therefore I was removed from hometown Michigan Medicaid and required to apply for Alabama Medicaid where I attended school. I wasn’t approved for Alabama Medicaid, though, which caused me to go essentially without insurance, aside from the simple coverage the school offered for emergencies.

After a few years of being in school without any insurance, I finally landed a job with coverage and started my routine doctor visits. This time I had more options. As a child I couldn’t consider biologic injections and oral medications, but as a working adult these options became available to me. The flip side was and remains that the medicine is harder to get because of high deductibles and regulations by insurance. I’ve also found that it’s harder to maintain insurance due to life situations such as layoffs or career changes.

There are vast differences between having this disease as a child through adulthood, yet there are a few similarities that I experienced in both phases of life. Doctors have fought to get me treatment no matter what age. As a teenager with severe psoriasis, doctors attempted to get me approved for Enbrel, which has only been authorized for adults over 18. I’ve even had doctors battle the insurance company to gain approval and decrease the cost of various medicines.

Though there have been many things that have changed there is one aspect of psoriasis that is too often neglected. From childhood until now there have been no coping strategies offered to me when dealing with this disease. Out of the approximately ten doctors I’ve seen in regards to my psoriasis, not one inquired on how the condition affected me psychologically. Although this disease appears to be a battle from the outside, the mental anguish faced as a psoriasis patient is life-altering and can even be virtually paralyzing. Patients need to know that there are other people in the world with this disease, and that there are resources outside of medicine to help them cope. Coping strategies are just as important as treatment. Although I have found organizations such as the National Psoriasis Foundation to help manage this disease, it wasn’t because of professional recommendation. I found them on my own at the age of 24.

I can only fathom how having support would have enhanced the overall quality of life for me if a doctor would have made me aware of these organizations at the age of seven. Although I have struggled to find a successful treatment, knowing that there’s support for the mental aspect of psoriasis will give me peace until a cure is found.

Now, psoriasis does not define me - I define it.

Alisha Bridges is the creator of Beingmeinmyownskin.com, where she blogs about life with psoriasis. She’s a community ambassador and volunteer for the National Psoriasis Foundation.

2 Responses to “ My two-decade battle with psoriasis ”

  1. Natalie Nichols Says:

    I’m so glad that I stumbled upon your story. I too have psoriasis. In 2007, I went through a really stressful time in my life and shortly after, I noticed my very first “spot.” It was very small and located on my elbow. Since then, it has been a roller coaster, for sure. At one point I was so covered in it that I had to take tranquilizers to get just a few hours of sleep and I would still wake up with dried blood all over my legs, sheets and pillow. I couldn’t go anywhere without a hat because the scalp psoriasis was so severe. My hair even started falling out. Luckily, when I got pregnant and quit smoking, it settled down a little bit and since then, it hasn’t been that bad again. I think the most miserable for me was the psoriasis that covered my feet. Oh, it was AWFUL. It would just crack open all over the bottoms of my feet and I would scratch it for hours. It was absolutely miserable. My dermatologist was shocked when I showed her my feet. The look on her face was truly unforgettable. I think she thought I had been exaggerating about the severity but when she saw it, she just said, “Oh, my! That is VERY severe!” I won’t go on and on, but I wanted to thank you for writing this. It’s always nice to know that we aren’t the only ones going through this and that our feelings are “normal.” It’s an itchy little world!

  2. Becky Kakooza Says:

    thank you for this
    mine began as mild limited swellings around my palm in 2008
    these swellings would burst,leaving pas and followed by my skin peeling it off not until this year wen i got head psoriasis
    it was a big blow for me as people look at u as a leper because they r not accustomed to the disease
    so its more of a night mere especially to the locals
    but not am also getting the same infection arnd my rectum and am short of what to do. It stresses me alot

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