I find it really important to talk about it with other people

Mary, 65 years old:Photo of two women swimming (PantherMedia / depfotovampir)

"My psoriasis comes and goes in cycles, so I sometimes have phases without any symptoms. When I was pregnant, for instance – I had amazing skin. Although it's tough, you have to find a way to accept that the disease is a part of your life. By that I don't mean you should give up. I mean you should keep going and take good care of yourself."

My psoriasis started when I was twelve years old. I was sick with a bad infection at the time, and my father passed away around then too. I must have already had the psoriasis in me, of course, but I think the additional stress probably made the symptoms appear.

At first it was just on my scalp. The patches were easy to treat with creams and shampoo, and I basically had it under control. But it got worse when I hit puberty. I had psoriasis all over my body then. I was prescribed ointments with steroids and vitamin D3 in them. A while later I had UV light therapy, including a kind of light therapy where you bathe in a salt water solution before being exposed to the light.

The ointments weren't enough

I have moderate psoriasis. For about the last 15 years I've been taking medication with fumaric acid esters in it. I started on a low dose because your body has to get used to the medication first. It's pretty strong, so I go for regular blood tests and urine tests.

After seven years of taking the medication, I had some abnormal liver readings so my doctor and I decided I should stop taking it. But then the psoriasis returned again – all over my body. The ointments I used after that didn't really help much, unfortunately. After half a year without the fumaric acid treatment, my liver had recovered enough so I started taking it again and have been taking it since. It really worked again, my skin is better now.

Good skin care is very important to me

I still have patches of psoriasis on my elbows and backside. I always use a vitamin D3 ointment on them. Good skin care is generally very important to me. I try to keep my skin from drying out because it starts itching and flaking off otherwise. If I manage to do that, I can cope quite well with my psoriasis.

I also pay attention to what I eat. I don't drink alcohol, make sure I eat a lot of vegetables, and avoid eating too much fat. Certain spices irritate my skin. Indian curry spices, for instance. So I avoid them. But different people react differently.

I went to the Dead Sea for treatment at a health resort twice. Both stays there were really good for me, they really helped. My skin got better while I was there. Things were good for about half a year after that, but then my skin got worse again.

I had a lot of light therapy in the past, which damaged my skin. I have had several basal cell carcinomas (ed. note: a type of skin cancer), probably as a result of the radiation used in the light therapy. But they were treated successfully. They were cut out and removed, together with quite a lot of tissue around them, and the surgical wounds always healed really well.

Psoriasis is a time-consuming condition

When I have flare-ups they affect me emotionally too, and I sometimes feel depressed. Relaxation exercises and autogenic training often help then. The self-help group that I'm part of has been great too. I have felt at home there for more than 20 years now. We've grown closer over the years, and sometimes hang out and do other stuff together too. It's always really interesting to talk to the others, I learn quite a lot from them, and you get a lot of support and help each other. Realizing that I wasn't alone was important.

Psoriasis is a time-consuming condition, what with all the skin care, doctors' appointments and treatments. Luckily I was always able to get time off work for the doctors' appointments and treatments. Later, when I was a housewife and mother, I could organize my time myself. But my skin care routine involves a lot of effort.

My kids don't have psoriasis so far

As a young woman I used to pay a lot of attention to what I wore. My skin didn't look great and I tried to cover up the most obvious patches. There's no way I'd ever wear tops with spaghetti straps, for instance. I often went out wearing long-sleeved tops. Things were particularly tough when I had psoriasis on my face.

I was fortunate enough to find an understanding partner. That made a big difference. There are days when you don't like your own appearance and feel ashamed. But it doesn't bother him, and he likes me the way I am.

My two kids don't have psoriasis so far. But I'm a bit worried that they'll get it some day. I've spoken to them about it but they don't seem to be too concerned for now.

Anything that helps you relax is good for you

I do a lot of sports and exercise in my free time. I enjoy playing tennis, go hiking and do Nordic walking, for instance. I just love getting out in the fresh air. I don't feel comfortable going swimming when my skin is bad, though. I really have to force myself. I'm part of a water aerobics group. The other people in the group know that my skin sometimes gets worse, and they're okay with that. The movement and being with the group makes me feel good. I feel relaxed and accepted.

At home, I enjoy having nice baths, being in the garden, and reading a lot. I have quite a lot of hobbies. And we like to travel too. The change of scene and getting to know a new country is good for me. I think it's important to go on holiday fairly regularly, drive to the seaside, treat yourself to autogenic training, pilates or yoga...anything that helps you relax and feel good.

The skin condition is just part of my life

It's important to face your psoriasis and accept it. After all, it's part of my life. My family is very supportive and understanding. Other things that help are the fact that my doctor takes me seriously, and that I can talk about everything with other people in the self-help group.

My psoriasis comes and goes in cycles, so I sometimes have phases without any symptoms. When I was pregnant, for instance – I had amazing skin. Although it's tough, you have to find a way to accept that the disease is a part of your life. By that I don't mean you should give up. I mean you should keep going and take good care of yourself.


Acknowledgment

Our real-life stories summarize interviews with people who are affected by the medical condition. Our interview partners have given us permission to publish their stories. We would like to express our sincere thanks to them.

The real-life stories give an insight into how other people cope and live with a medical condition. Their opinions and comments are not recommendations by IQWiG.

Please note: The names of our interview partners have been changed to protect their identity. The photos are of models.