The treatment at the health resort gave me a new sense of freedom

Photo of a man sitting on a garden bench (PantherMedia / Dubova) Thomas, 48 years old:

“I could relate to what the other people with psoriasis said: Their lives revolved around the disease, just like mine did.”

The first signs of psoriasis appeared on my scalp when I was about ten years old. My mum took me to see a skin specialist. He said it was cradle cap. It took a long time for the correct diagnosis to be made.

The symptoms started getting worse when I was 18, with patches of psoriasis appearing all over my body rather than just on my head. I couldn’t go swimming anymore, which was a big problem for me at that age. I felt like the doctor wasn’t really interested in helping me. The treatment with light therapy didn’t work, and he didn’t care about me as a person. Which is a shame, really.

When I was 22 I decided to take things into my own hands. I asked the doctor about having treatment at a health resort, and even applied for it myself. It would have been better if he had suggested the idea to me.

I was a different person afterwards

At first I felt a bit weird about going to have treatment at a health resort because I had always seen that as something that old people do. But being there was an eye-opening experience. For the first time in my life I spoke to lots of other people my age who had the same condition. And I realized that other people had worse psoriasis that I did. Various treatments were tried out while I was there. I was able to go swimming and feel more relaxed.

The treatment at the health resort gave me a new sense of freedom. It made me feel more self-confident. And the psoriasis went away completely while I was there. That didn’t last long, but it was still great.

What helped me the most was knowing that other people were going through the same thing, and being able to talk to them. I no longer felt alone. My family had always been there for me, of course, but they didn’t know what it was like. I couldn’t talk to them about it as much, and in as much detail. I could relate to what the other people with psoriasis said: Their lives revolved around the disease, just like mine did.

If you ask me, I think I should have gone for treatment at a health resort much earlier, at the age of 19 at the latest. I’m still angry at my skin doctor for not thinking of it. After going that first time, I returned there for more treatment every one to two years.

For a long time I didn’t want to take any medication

The state of my skin depended on whether I treated it or not. If I didn’t do anything about it, I always had psoriasis. If I did something about it, the symptoms went away. One of the treatments involved bathing in a salt solution and then exposing my skin to a special kind of light. That really helped, and the effect lasted about six to nine months.

But then my skin would start scaling again, so I used various ointments. I also took oral steroids because I wanted the symptoms to go away. Over time I came to learn more about the disease and symptoms, which allowed me to start deciding for myself when and how to use ointments.

After a while I was no longer happy having so much light therapy because it's so time-consuming and there are risks associated with UVB radiation. So I started looking for other options. I went to a special clinic and had treatment that involved a combination of dithranol and bathing in a salt solution. That helped – but the dithranol stained my clothes and bedding.

I was lucky that my wife supported me in everything I did

When I was younger I was ashamed of my psoriasis, and covered up my skin. I never talked about it and just tried to hide it. I felt inhibited, particularly as far as my body was concerned. I had problems getting undressed in front of women. That changed later on, though. I became more confident. My first treatment at the health resort really helped as far as that was concerned.

When I first met my wife I was kind of scared that my psoriasis would affect our relationship because the treatment took up a lot of time and my life revolved around it. I mean, I went away for treatment nearly every year between the age of 20 and 30. Whenever I drove there I worried that our relationship wouldn’t survive us being apart for so long. But she always came to visit me, we had a good time, and we’re still together now. My wife went along with everything – I was very lucky. She always supported me in what I did, and still does now.

Teenagers should seek contact with others with psoriasis as soon as possible

Nowadays there are holiday camps especially for teenagers who have psoriasis. I would advise them to go to one. It would have done me good when I was that age. The sooner, the better. Although there’s a lot of useful information on the internet or elsewhere, nothing can replace a good chat with people in the same situation as yourself.  Or – even better – lots of chats spread out over several days.

Psoriasis shaped my career

At some point in my mid-to-late thirties I started having problems with my joints. At first it was the joints in my fingers. They became swollen and a bit stiff, particularly in the morning, and I had some trouble moving them. So I started taking medication to prevent the inflammation from damaging the joints: first methotrexate, and then ciclosporin. When that stopped working, I was prescribed a biological drug. Because it was so expensive, I had to send a special application to my health insurer, asking them to cover the costs. I didn’t have any symptoms for a long time then – in my joints or on my skin – up until half a year ago.

I’m a manual laborer and was always able to do my job. When my joints started becoming inflamed I was working freelance and started looking for a more stable job. I was worried that I might not be able to move properly at some point in the future and wouldn’t get any freelance work then. Nowadays I work as a caretaker. I wouldn’t have changed my career if I hadn’t had psoriasis. But I’m okay with the way things have turned out, I made the right decision.

I’m not really worried about the future. During my health resort stays I met enough people who had psoriasis and were 70 or older. They had lived with their psoriasis all their lives. Your skin may look bad every now and then, but you can grow old with it. You can’t say that about a lot of other illnesses.


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.