It’s Just Psoriasis, It’s Not Contagious

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As I brave my winter skin, I also brace myself for the stares and comments that come along with it. As a New York native, I can say I am fairly accustomed to the bizarre and odd things that one sees in this city. Cirque du Soleil on the train… questionable food on the streets sold from even more questionable vans… fashion statements galore… you name it, we have it. But what happens when you are on the other end of the staring?

I don’t care how long you have Psoriasis, you never get used to the stares. You never get used to the moving of seats on the train just to get away from you. You never get used to the questions. And, oddly enough, for a city that considers itself so diverse and open-minded, I think we can be one of the most close minded cities in the world.

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I’ll never forget standing on the street one day waiting for my car to be taken out of valet. A little kid, maybe four or five years old, was getting out of the car with his parents and he asked his mom if she thought all the bug bites on my skin hurt. It was maybe one of the most innocent things I had encountered concerning my disease. He didn’t mean anything by it and it was almost sweet. But the way it hit me and hurt me will never leave me. Kids can be so innocent and so raw.

Walking by unusual people every day never bothered me. It still doesn’t. But to suddenly be my own little side show was surprising to me. I never really saw it that way but I was this little freak roaming the streets of New York. I didn’t fit in! And all because of my SKIN!

I think my point is… take it with a grain of salt. Try not to slide your sleeves down to make people feel comfortable, or sit by yourself on the train away from everyone intentionally. If someone has an issue with your skin, let them ask you about it. You’ll be surprised how many people will sigh when you say, “it’s just psoriasis. it’s not contagious.”

Winter And Your Skin: 7 Tips to Helping Your Psoriasis

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As most Psoriasis patients know, winter can be the hardest month to bare. In the three years that I have had Psoriasis, I notice that the fall and winter season has not been kind to my skin. But why?

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation* “A combination of dry air, decreased sunlight exposure, and colder temperatures can all contribute to winter psoriasis flares. Frequent moisturizing and use of a home humidifier can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Discuss with your doctor possible treatments to control your psoriasis in the winter.”

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I DO suggest you consult your physician but here are some things that help me during the snowy months:

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1- Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize.

Keep your skin moist to ease the pain, redness and scaling. The thicker the cream or ointment, the better it is at locking water into your skin. Use moisturizing soap and a creamy lotion after you shower. I use fragrance-free products like baby lotion or Aveeno.

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2- Choose soothing baths over hot showers.

I know, I know. I hate baths too but they really do help. Long showers in hot water remove moisture from your skin. If you are going to shower, shower in warm water just long enough to soap up and rinse off. (Use gentle soaps like baby soap or soaps with Tar in them- I love Grandpa Brand Soaps personally) If you choose a bath, Sprinkle finely ground oatmeal (they sell them in packets at the drug store), Epsom Salts or Dead Sea salts. Make sure the bath is WARM not hot and soak for about 15 minutes to slough off scales, soothe itching, and, most importantly, unwind. Apply moisturizing cream or lotion right after to lock the water in.

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3- Use a humidifier.

While a humidifier doesn’t work for me personally because my room is a hot box as it is, I do recommend it. To wake up with smooth skin, use a device to keep indoor air moist. Make sure you clean the humidifier or bacteria will build up and that helps no one.

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4- Wear soft layers.

Cold weather and wind can irritate your skin and trigger flare-ups. They can also make psoriasis in your joints more painful. Bundle up in a soft scarf, hat, and gloves when you go outside to protect exposed areas of skin. Dress in layers you can peel off to avoid getting too hot — sweating can make psoriasis worse. Choose cotton over wool, denim, and other fabrics that are more likely to bother your skin. When I put on creams before bed, I like to keep a pair or two of psoriasis- friendly pajamas so I don’t worry about stains.

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5- Drink water.

To pump up moisture, drink plenty of water. You’ll know if you’re getting enough because your urine will be a pale yellow. Drinking 8, 8oz cups of water is not only recommended for daily use in general but it also helps your skin. If your urine is bright yellow or dark-colored, you may need more water.

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6- Ease stress.

I know it’s hard, the winter holidays are full of cheer but also full of stress. Stress, in my experience, always makes my psoriasis worse. Plan time to relax. A massage wouldn’t hurt if you can afford it (or have a loving partner who is willing to exercise his or her hands). Exercise also helps. So get that workout in and grab a loving massage.

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7- Consult your doctor.

If nothing seems to be working, please consult your doctor. There are many options. I personally love UV Therapy but leave it to your doctor to decide what is best for you.

 

So grab that nice, soothing bath… lotion up… toss that humidifier on high and grab that massage you deserve. The holidays are for celebrating, not for skin flaking.

Goodbye Black Clothes: A Love Poem ?

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Goodbye black clothes,
Wherever you are.
Trapped in my closet,
The trunk of my car?

Goodbye black clothes,
That I’ve tucked away.
The depths of my drawers,
In bins, where I can’t say.

Goodbye black clothes,
That collect all my flakes.
I’ll never see you,
On one of my dates.

Goodbye black clothes,
I’ve loved you so much.
Your smell from the dryer,
Your soft, gentle touch.

Goodbye black clothes,
It’s great when it lasts.
Too bad I have skin,
Covered in plaques.

5 Yoga Poses That Will Help Your Psoriasis

You’re confused. I get it. Yoga? Psoriasis? WTF?

We all know Psoriasis loves stress. It’s like a fat guy finding an unlimited buffet for Free. Whaaaaaat? Get me on that line! (sorry, that was my inner fat, buffet-loving person). So how can we relieve it?

I can totally give you a list of 100 things. O.K. maybe like 28-ish. But my point is that yoga is a definite stress reliever. A According to a survey conducted by the International Journal Of Yoga, “of nearly 4,000 people, Australian researchers found that more than 58 percent of yoga practitioners started yoga for stress-reducing benefits, and nearly 80 percent continued in their yoga practice for this benefit.” Can anyone say #TeamYoga ?

Here are 5 Yoga poses/techniques to start your day (or finish your day) with. A little body bending never hurt anybody. Never mind, I take that back.

This pose looks easy, because it’s basically just standing. But it’s the basis for all of the other standing poses and inversions. If you do this actively, you will be working your torso and legs, and you will be grounding yourself. This can be great for confidence and easing anxiety.

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Posture Tip
Your spine, especially your pelvis, should be neutral. That means you will have a slight curve in your lower spine. Many of us today, from sitting so much, either push our booties out too much or pull our pelvises in. A neutral lower spine and pelvis should have a slight curve, and you shouldn’t have any muscles clenched in your hips or your lower back.
    1. Stand with your big toes barely touching, and your heels slightly apart. A good way to gauge your stance is to see if your second toes are parallel. Press into all four corners of your feet: big toe, little toe, right side heel, left side heel. As you push into your feet, feel how that engages your entire leg and keeps those muscles active.
    2. Take a deep breath and roll your shoulders up and back, releasing them down, so your shoulder blades are resting toward each other and your neck is long. Take a few deep breaths here. Close your eyes if you like.

2. Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

When you’re ready to move on, take a deep breath.

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    1. On your inhale, lift your arms to the sides and up, over your head. On your exhale, release your arms (either in front of your body or out to the side, like a swan dive) as you fold your torso over your legs. On the first time through, have at least a slight bend in your knees. No matter how flexible you are, your hamstrings will be cold when starting out, and you’ll want to be gentle with them.
    2. As you relax into the pose more, begin to straighten your legs as far as feels good. Anything that pinches or is a shooting pain should immediately stop your movement. Let gravity do the work here; don’t pull yourself down and try to force the fold. You can put yours hands on your shins, your feet, or the floor. This passively lengthens your spine and your hamstrings, and it’s also a great way to work on balance.

3. Plank Pose (Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasana)

This is a very active pose that works all the muscles of your front body.

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Posture Tip
Your shoulders should be directly over your wrists, and your arm bones should be firmly in their sockets. Try not to anticipate movement by pushing up out of your shoulder sockets, but don’t rest into them either.
    1. From Forward Fold, put your hands flat on the floor, bending your knees as much as needed to do so. Step one leg at a time back, until you are in a high plank pose.
    2. Press into your hands, keep your legs parallel and engaged, and pull your bellybutton toward your spine. Take a few deep breaths here, working your core and your arms.

Press into your hands, keep your legs parallel and engaged, and pull your bellybutton toward your spine. Take a few deep breaths here, working your core and your arms.

4. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

This pose elongates your spine, stretches your back leg muscles, and aids in digestion. Since it’s a mild inversion, it can release stress, help with headaches, and calm the nervous system.

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Posture Tip
It’s easy to drop a little too much and get “banana back” or to hunch your shoulders. A good way to figure this pose out as a beginner is to get a friend to look at the shape you are making from the side. Your upper body, from your hands on the floor up to your hips, should be relatively straight, allowing for some curves due to natural spine curves.
    1. From Plank Pose, push into your hands and lift your hips up and back on the inhale. One thing that can be tricky with this pose is, again, keeping your shoulders engaged but not working too hard, and keeping a neutral spine.
    2. Your legs should be straight, and your heels working toward the floor. There will probably be some space between your heels and the floor. You could be very flexible, but if, for instance, your legs are a bit on the long side, you probably won’t have your heels all the way to the floor. That’s fine. Keep your legs active and heels reaching toward the ground. Your first time in this pose, pedal out your feet a little to warm up your leg muscles.

5. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

In any yoga class, this is a good pose to come to if you want to rest and reset your nervous system.

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  1. In Downward Facing Dog, take a deep breath. On the exhale, release your knees to the floor, pull your hips back to your heels, and rest your forehead on the floor. You can either leave your arms stretched in front of you or pull them next to your body, hands resting palms up near your feet.
  2. This is a restorative pose, so adjust it to your needs. If you want to widen your knees a bit, do so. Like all forward folds, this pose is nurturing. It relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck, and massages your internal organs.

 *Poses thanks to HealthLine.com  –  http://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/beginner-yoga-poses#6

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Why Caring About Psoriatic Arthritis Could Come In Handy

When I was initially diagnosed with Severe Plaque Psoriasis I completely ignored all other forms of psoriasis. Why? Well, It certainly wasn’t to be cruel but I was just too busy wallowing in my own self psoriasis pity. I knew what version I had now and I had to focus primarily on what was happening to ME. Who cares about those other spotty people right? WRONG.

So fast forward a bit and It eventually sinks in that OH, because I have plaque psoriasis I am more susceptible to psoriatic arthritis at some point. Um, can anyone say yikes? Needless to say I was not happy about this revelation. But much like my realization and acceptance of plaque psoriasis, this too took a little bit of time to sink in but it sank… like the titanic. In fact, months after my own diagnosis and the constant wheel spinning of “where in the heck did this come from in my family?”, I was having lunch with my father and grandfather and BLAM. There it was. Right in front of me eating a pastrami sandwich. My grandfathers hands.

Psoriatic Arthritis: Hands
Soft-tissue swelling can be seen in the metacarpophalangeal joints bilaterally. Marked deformity in both fifth digits has produced telescoping of the joints. There is also sausage-like swelling of the right third digit. No psoriatic skin changes have occurred on the hands, but onycholysis of several nails is present, most easily seen in the left second digit.

Curled up into painful piles of bones were my grandfathers fingers. I had always noticed them, they were hard to miss, but they didn’t LOOK like my skin so I never made the connection. As a very stern, stubborn, former navy dude, my grandfather (or papa as I like to call him) never went to get this officially checked out. It was waved off and grunted at as “no big deal” or “just getting old”. But it was very clear to me that I was looking at a case of very obvious Psoriatic Arthritis and I didn’t need a medical degree to come to this conclusion. So what came next? AH! The revelation that my chances of PsA just increased substantially. I felt the pain and dread lurch over me and force me into a submissive physical hunch. So what now? Acceptance? Submission? Knowledge? A little mix of all three? I was in favor of a healthy mix.

So to the web I went…

What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis — a condition that features red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. Most people develop psoriasis first and are later diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, but the joint problems can sometimes begin before skin lesions appear.
So, again, why should I worry?
Well, I have arthritis in my family gene pool AND I have psoriasis so essentially I’m a psoriatic ticking time bomb. Factually, about a third of people with psoriasis will get psoriatic arthritis. People with SEVERE psoriasis (yup, like mine) could have a larger chance and USUALLY the skin symptoms pop up first. Lucky me, I know. According to an article by WebMD, “The Link Between Psoriatic Arthritis and Psoriasis” reviewed by David Zelman, MD**, “About 40% of people who get psoriatic arthritis have relatives with it or with psoriasis. Scientists don’t know which genes are responsible for these conditions.”.
So what now?
Buckle up and wait for the psoriasis train to pick me up and take me on another ride, again. Keep up with my doctors and my skin and prepare for the worst. As my papa would say “screw it, it’s all in your head anyway” and then he would order a martini. Psoriatic pinky up and all. Cheers!
FIND MORE INFORMATION at PsACounts.com !!!

*NOTE That the image in this article is NOT mine or my grandfathers (as in, they aren’t his hands but are super close to what his actually look like. I’ll have to catch him mid pastrami chomp next luncheon) but in fact belong to The American College of Rheumatology as watermarked. Thank you guys.

**WebMd Article Link: http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/psoriatic-arthritis/link-between-psoriasis-and-psoriatic-arthritis

***Brittany Hands Photo Credit: Jay Lee

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