In Strindberg's Shadow
by Roman H.

Ed: I've sincerely enjoyed your web page regarding psoriasis. I am a 35-year-old female who has suffered from psoriasis since I was a young child. My mother, brother, and nephews have developed psoriasis also, although they did not break out in lesions until they were adults.

Mom, 71, cannot remember any other family members who were sufferers, but she also reminded me that back in her day, people wore long sleeves and pants to protect themselves from the sun and to avoid getting a tan -- a sure sign of being lower class. Ha. How times have changed.

I've tried everything but methotrexate; I'm not ready to damage my liver, yet. I've suffered from lesions on my elbows, knees, pubic area (lovely), butt, back of neck...but the most painful areas are my feet and hands. They crack and bleed constantly. The itching is unbearable. Steroid injections were wonderful at first until I experienced the backlash. The new crop of lesions were worse than before!

The only thing that helps me now is sunlight. Thank God I live in south Texas. I try to sit out in the sun for at least 15 minutes every day. 30 minutes to an hour is better. I almost had my hands completely clear from all lesions but then got busy and missed sitting out for a couple of weeks. Now I'm back to square one.

The cortisones, tars, salicylic acids, creams, Vaseline, antibiotic creams, steroid injections....what a waste of time and money. Mom even tried the banana peel derivative, Exorex, and gave me some to try also -- it hurt! We've tried jojoba, too, with no luck.

Mom has the pustular form on her hands, and my hands tend to crack and get infected. I assume that you know that if you have psoriasis on your hands and feet, you can qualify for disability? That's funny to me because I work with the disabled and can't imagine that I could qualify, too.

Every time I ruin a new pair of stockings due to rough scales causing runs, I think: there has to be something better than this. Don't even get me near vinyl shoes. Give me leather or give me death.

Well, guess this is enough for now. I'm sorry that you developed psoriasis, as it is a definite downer. You'd think that once you get through your formative years without any major afflictions, you're pretty much set except for good old American problems like heart disease and diabetes. Welcome to our world, Ed. Thanks for making it better. -Roman

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Ed's Response:

Dear Roman: I agree, severe psoriasis on one's hands can be the worst. Did you know, though, that we're in good company? Perhaps the most famous person to be occasionally debilitated by severe psoriasis on the hands was Johan August Strindberg, the Swedish dramatist and essayist. (Rent the movie, "Wolf at the Door," starring Donald Sutherland as the artist, Paul Gauguin, and Max von Sydow as Strindberg. Great scene where Gauguin goes to visit Strindberg in the hospital. Strindberg's hands are all bandaged and he's in a foul mood because he can't write. He spits out the word "psoriasis" with enough venom to make me stand up and cheer!)

Your mom's point about the way people dressed a few decades ago, versus the way we dress today, is well-made. When in the world did tans become fashionable, anyway? And WHY? I think it was a conspiracy, wrought by people who waste too much time at the beach and were found out because they turned brown. They started a "brown is cool" fad among those whom nature made pale, primarily to hide their own unfruitful preoccupation (and they also spawned a deadly industry known as "tanning salons").

You're lucky, Roman, to be able to capitalize from Sol's freeby treatments in south Texas. Many of us can't handle the UV exposure. One of these days they're going to invent an umbrella or tent with an opacity that matches that of the atmosphere over the Dead Sea. It will filter out just the bad stuff, letting the rest of us join you outside. (My derm tells me they have been able to replicate the "rays" people get at the Dead Sea, but as with all else, it works for some of us, some of the time.)

I was unaware we could qualify for disability because we have psoriasis on our hands. Can you provide more information? I can't imagine how that would work in cases like mine, but perhaps my hand lesions aren't persistent enough. -Ed

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