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Jan-Feb 2009 Briefing

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In This Briefing:
Bad Weather and P — Working Too Well Together

Indigo plant for psoriasis?
New in this update

Bad Weather and P — Working Too Well Together

As much of the U.S. is experiencing the hardest winter so far this millennium, it's not surprising that message boards and mail boxes are getting a lot of news about flares, new lesions, worse joints and other ills psoriasis-related.

Climate affecting psoriasis is as old as the disease itself. Flakers often get worse in cold, dry weather (like winter time), and in the humid, sunny summers many flakers sunbathe and improve. Light therapy, ultraviolet "B" frequencies (UVB), ultraviolet "A" frequencies (UVA), and Psoralen (a light sensitizing drug) combined with UVA are popular therapies and among the most trusted. Indeed, the controversy over whether or not to use commercial tanning salons for therapeutic purposes continues to rage. Many derms say the quality of the lamps is too low to be safe, and medically proficient oversight is necessary but absent from most salon experiences. But, since tanning salon experiences can cost a fraction of what a derm charges for in-office use of precision light equipment, other derms relent and say "Use a tanning salon, but follow my instructions...."

Buying precision light equipment for home use is another option. (Click here for manufacturer information at the National Psoriasis Foundation web site.) Lots of flakers have had their home light units paid largely by their insurance carriers (of course, with a 'prescription' from their dermatologist). Static units come in sizes for hands, feet and full body, but there are hand held units used for concentrated use on specific areas; e.g., the scalp.

The most significant drawback to light therapy is the increased risk of developing skin cancer later on.

Aside from light therapies, flakers dependent on topical or systemic meds to treat their lesions often find what worked in the summer doesn't quite cut it in the winter; and bad winters like this one amplify the problem. I've been nearly clear and joint pain free using the biologic Humira for about three years; however, this winter I'm feeling a lot of old reminders. Lesions have reappeared in my scalp, my knees are 'achy' going up and down stairs and fingernails are starting to show the 'stippling' that, in the past, has presaged severe nail psoriasis.  I'm not going to worry myself into a full-blown rebound ... but I did check my medicine cabinet the other day to ensure a supply of my most-trusted topicals.

Indigo plant for psoriasis?

Listen up all you disappointed Kalawalla users: A small experiment in Taiwan reveals that the Indigo plant — indigo naturalis, a dark blue plant used in traditional Chinese medicine — when turned into a topical ointment might help psoriasis. (Kalawalla was/is a dietary supplement, though a couple of reports to FlakeHQ report positive results turning it into a topical, too.) According to a news report at Yahoo! in November, Taiwanese doctors conducted a study on 42 patients. They used the indigo naturalis ointment on one side of their body and a placebo (no active ingredient) ointment on the other, then they checked on these patients' condition after 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 weeks. An 81 percent improvement was noted overall. 25 of the patients taking part were "completely or nearly completely cleared."

Of course, it was a small study and the media version of the outcome doesn't go into important particulars like the level of P-involvement for these patients and their history with the disease and other treatments, their lifestyles, other meds they're using, etc. However, for a natural plant extract applied topically these are pretty impressive results.

Learn more by reading Reuters news release on the study.

New in This Update

Seems more people had time to email during the holiday season in November and December, resulting in a weightier Mail section. Broad range of subjects treated in this update's mail, but one stands out because it is SO RARE here at FlakeHQ. Brenda C.'s psoriasis never itches. A phenomenon so weird she wonders if her condition really is psoriasis. Bryce M. feels guilty about using expensive biologics, which is also a rare consideration here at FlakeHQ.

Poet Laureate Sherry Sheehan has provided Cracking the Codes, a delightful lyric that ends up being about the science of P currently grabbing headlines. Every time I read it I smile broader.

And Clara Dewke is off and running with Spouses' Corner. Brenda R. wrote in about handling her husband's mood swings; Jeannie confesses she "pets" her hubby any way she can.

Finally, a few new and very funny one-liners have been added to the Don't Say This page.