Mail (May, 1998)

Like an Allergy, but Disabling
from Anna

Dear Ed and other sufferers of psoriasis: I have had psoriasis for the past 18 years with no relief. I have palmar-plantar-pustulosis of the hands and feet. Yes, I also have the Nats effect where it will break out on one finger on one hand then the other hand will break out in the same spot. the same goes on with the feet. Mine is quite disabling and at times I have to use a wheel chair to get around, as the pain is too much to try to walk. The itching becomes so severe my nerves shatter. I am now 61 years old.

We definitely need more studies done on this disease. When I first broke out I was 30 years old, living in a house with a swamp cooler, and started falling in love with pizza and eating cheese often. My breakout that time lasted about 4 years until we started taking up water skiing and I gave up having to have pizza every weekend. I stayed clear for the ten years we played in the sun. Then all at once, after taking a trip to Arkansas in the summer (we are from Oregon), where the humidity was terrible, my psoriasis broke out again. We were staying in a home where there was a swamp cooler in our bedroom, and this house was quite moldy. What I am getting at is this. Has anyone else noticed a connection with possible worse breakouts if they are in air conditioned rooms? I seem to have a real problem with breaking out more in air conditioned environments, and also notice I will break out worse if I eat too many yeasty foods and cheese. I cannot have alcoholic drinks, either.

We need to make people who do not suffer with psoriasis become aware of how painful a disease this can be. I have had a number of people say they thought it was a cosmetic type of problem with some itching.

At this time I am taking Methotrexate, which seems to be helping. Otherwise, you name it and I have probably used it with relief at times. I have been much worse the past three years. Some of the medicines I was put on, such as some of the preventative heart medicines, I've thrown in the garbage because they made my psoriasis much worse. One antihistamine made me break out terribly. So there is a connection with what we put into our mouths.

I would like to hear from some others about how they were living when they first broke out. -Anna

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Ed's Response: You surely have given me some food for thought, Anna. When my psoriasis first manifested (on my scalp) I was living in my first home equipped with a swamp cooler. For those readers not acquainted with "swamp coolers," they are also known as "evaporative coolers." They are used instead of refrigerated air conditioning in low-humidity, hot climates. They work by drawing air through water-moistened filters on its way into the building. One drawback to swamp coolers is the potential for spore-producing molds to flourish in the filter, spores for which human allergic reactions are common.

I was very allergic when I was growing up. When I finally had an allergy "scratch test" done in the service, the doctor began his report to me by saying, "The list of what you are NOT allergic to is shorter than the list of what you ARE allergic to." Hence followed two years of four hyposensitization shots per week. No derm I have ever asked has discounted the possibility that allergies triggered—and continue to trigger—my psoriasis, though none confirm it outright, either. Perhaps ironically, since my psoriasis manifested, most of my other allergy symptoms have subsided (or been usurped?).

Perhaps one of the reasons why a link between allergies and psoriasis has not been formally corroborated is they are equally mysterious. I, too, would like to hear from anyone with more insights and/or experience. Thanks, Anna. -Ed

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