This post, and my travel to the event, was sponsored by AbbVie Inc. Personal opinions and thoughts are my own.
I rushed into the Whitby Hotel in New York City feeling late to The Science of Skin educational event. The stress of navigating a new city amped up my heart rate. I had traveled across the country and didn’t want to miss a beat.
As I descended the stairs to The Reading Room, I felt transported to a familiar space. I first saw a picture of myself on a poster with a quotation about why I started blogging about psoriasis. Walking in further, I greeted new and old friends.
Indeed, The Reading Room became a special place for those few hours. I might characterize it as a safe place, but it was more than that. I not only learned from doctors and heard fellow patients transparently share their experiences with chronic skin conditions, but I also reflected on my own psoriasis journey.
A Student’s Attitude Toward Psoriasis
Since my diagnosis, my understanding of psoriasis has grown as I have taken the initiative to learn and read about the disease, its causes and the treatment landscape. I don’t claim to know it all, as information and treatments continue to evolve, so I always look forward to opportunities to be a student of psoriasis, which this event afforded.
During the panel discussion about psoriasis, I recalled instances of people who told me flatly that psoriasis is just a rash. Over 40 years of living with this disease, I’ve seen the science prove them wrong. Now we know that psoriasis is a chronic disease linked to many factors, including an overactive immune system.
When I see those red plaques and lesions on my skin, I now know I’m seeing inflammation that is forcing my body to produce skin cells at a much faster rate than normal. Instead of a 28-day skin cycle, psoriatic skin produces new skin cells in a four to five-day cycle. That faster skin production leads to thickening of the skin as cells build up on the surface. Those skin cells then become the flaky scales and plaques that get all over my bedsheets, clothes, and floor.
In addition to discussing the science behind psoriasis, the dermatologists at the event also addressed other areas of psoriasis research. One even talked about how knowledge gained from developing psoriasis treatments is now helping researchers to develop treatments for other conditions.
Coming to Terms, Again, With Psoriasis’s Impact on My Life
The Science of Skin event turned out to be more than just a scientific presentation of psoriasis and other chronic skin conditions, but rather, a look at the whole person. The discussions helped me realize that I’m not always as willing to acknowledge the deep impact of the disease on my daily life as I think I am.
I usually wonder if my skin will worsen with the stress of travel. This time I did feel a bit of skin discomfort, but when people asked how I was doing I quickly said “fine.” When speakers started talking about the isolation and shame that some living with chronic skin conditions can experience, I felt challenged once again to stop hiding the impact of psoriasis on my life.
A survey conducted by the National Psoriasis Foundation that found 87% of psoriasis patients feel helpless and embarrassed, and 88% believe that psoriasis affects their overall emotional wellbeing, really resonated with me. Psoriasis has never been just skin deep for me, and now I have stats to back it up. The presenters emphasized the physical, psychological, emotional, and social impacts that can come with a visible skin condition—all of which I can attest to in my own experience.
At the same time, I was glad to hear one dermatologist’s observation of how the psoriasis patient community’s mood has turned more positive as more effective treatments have become available. I’ve experienced that transformation in my life, and the last decade has been the most productive for my advocacy, work, and education. I didn’t settle for “good enough” and asked for more when it came to my psoriasis care.
Now I want other patients to feel empowered to have an honest discussion with their dermatologists about their treatment goals for achieving clearer skin. As I grew in sharing with my dermatologists how I’m really feeling and thinking, I found myself more involved and satisfied with the decisions that were made for my psoriasis care.
As The Science of Skin event ended, I looked back at The Reading Room one last time. The event marked a moment where I felt hope again for people living with psoriasis. I confidently stepped back into the city feeling that I could move forward in my journey with psoriasis as I turned toward home.
Disclosure: This post, and my travel to the event, was sponsored by AbbVie Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, and should not be construed to constitute medical advice. Personal opinions and thoughts are my own. I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice. Please talk with your doctor about your individual medical situation.