Today Alisha Bridges shares how she treats psoriasis. Please remember that Alisha and I are not medical professionals and cannot give medical advice. We are just sharing our experiences and opinions. Check out Being me in my own skin and be sure to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
What Led to a Diagnosis
Before the early 90’s there were no vaccines for chicken pox. Chicken pox is an itchy, blister-like rash that usually comes and goes away after about a week. As a kid, it was a virus you were expect to catch, it wasn’t a big deal. Some parents would even purposely expose their children to other kids who were currently contagious with the virus so they could get the process over with before they became too old.
The vaccine for chickenpox was approved in the early ’90s for kids, so this virus is a thing of the past. Unfortunately, I acquired the chick pox virus at the age of 7, around the same year the vaccine became available. Prior to the virus, I had patches of dry skin on my knees and elbows, but my family didn’t think anything of it.
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Scars of a Different Kind
After chickenpox, you normally have scars left behind, which signify your encounter with the virus and the amount of scratching you did. My grandmother noticed my “scars” were a little different than what normally appears after the virus leaves. She then took me to the dermatologist who surveyed my skin and determined I had psoriasis.
At that age, it was hard to comprehend exactly what it meant to have psoriasis. I knew I was different but the ideas of beauty did not manifest until around the 5th grade, this is when the pressures of good looks and school crushes came into play.
The treatment side was also a challenge. Up until the age of 18, the only treatments I could use were topicals, phototherapy, and occlusion. My grandmother was desperate to help me to achieve clear skin. She would take me to phototherapy at least 4 times a week. The trip to the doctor was about 50 miles there and back.
As you can imagine she spent a lot of time and money to ensure I received the best treatment. Unfortunately, light therapy was not the best treatment for me because it did nothing for my skin but at that time it was really the only option I had from the time I was 7 until my late teens. Around the age of 16, a team of doctors worked to get me on Enbrel. At that time it was only available to those who were 18 or older, but my case of psoriasis was so bad the doctors wanted to see if I could get special approval. Unfortunately, the company said no, and years later I was afforded the opportunity to use the drug, in which I found it did absolutely nothing to improve my skin. Up until my late 20’s, I was covered with psoriasis by 90%.
Once in my early 20’s, I had WAY more options when it came to treatment, I also had more of a say-so than when I was younger. Around 21, I started with medicine in a pill form. The doctor prescribed an oral steroid which I was instructed to take for a few weeks only, then I would have to discontinue for a period, and then start it again later. The issue with this medicine is it cleared me completely, but I suffered from severe depression while on the drug so it was not something I could function on. After that, I moved on to my first biologic, which I mentioned earlier.
The first one was Enbrel, which did nothing to improve my condition. It wasn’t until almost 5 years later that I had the opportunity to try Stelara, which for the first time in almost 20 years cleared me up by 80% within a year. I was elated to be on a drug that actually worked. But almost 2 years of using the drug, my body became used to it and it stopped working, which for some is a common issue for those on biologics.
Unfortunately, when the drug stopped working I started to show signs of arthritis, which is apparently a disadvantage of using biologics, sometimes your disease can worsen when and if the drug stops working or you stop taking them. I had always had a slight pain in my knees, but the pain seems to appear in other areas such as the joints in my hands, something I had never experienced before.
Currently, I’m on taltz, which has cleared me 100%. Since I didn’t have much trouble with the arthritis the mobility part of the disease is not currently a huge concern, but is something I monitor closely. Since my psoriasis is gone my quality of life has improved by 100%! I am more vibrant, more confident, and way more outgoing. My anxiety and panic attacks have also decreased by a significant amount.
Although at this time I’m psoriasis free I’m not totally absolved from the disease. I worry about this current medicine one day no longer working, and honestly, this drug is really my last hope at the moment. I don’t have any other options if this drug doesn’t work because I’ve tried everything available at this point. I also worry about the severity of my depression if my disease comes back. I can’t imagine being 100% clear and going back to the state I was once in.