Mail (November, 1998)

Started Like an Allergic Reaction
from Adrian

Hi. Reading through all the letters sent in by fellow flakers has somehow managed to cheer me up. I've had this rotten crud on my elbows, knees (actually, "knee"—the other is completely clear) and hands for about 5 months.

It started just like an allergic reaction and quickly turned into the dry flaking lesions.

My wife's a borderline obsessive compulsive and although I know she loves me, I've seen the beginning of the end when we talk about [my P].

Basically, I just want to say I'm going to get your book. It looks like just the kind of black humor I need to drag me out of this dark hole. Also, I was given MG217 "Intensive Strength Ointment" for P. It's coal tar cream. Know anything about it? Regards, -Adrian

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Ed's Response: Coal tar derivatives are one of the oldest and safest P palliatives around. Depending on the severity of your case, MG217 may work just fine. For myself, I find coal tar only mildly effective, and only if I use it intensely but infrequently. When I'm on the mild end of a topical corticosteroid regimen and am in pretty good shape, use of coal tar on pinkish lesions may keep them that way for a week or so longer. But sooner (rather than later, usually) the lesions bloom again and, when they are really flaming, they giggle if I lay on the coal tar.

I probably delayed real treatment of my P for six months to a year because I, too, thought it was an allergic reaction; an extension of the rashes that have, for my entire life, been my skin's way of telling me I'm living on the wrong planet.

If your wife really is borderline OC, and things like flakes in the linen, on the carpet, all over the bathroom bother her, you two may be in for rocky times. I didn't realize just what a trial living with a psoriatic can be until I was living alone, after my second divorce, in 1995. The real damage of alimony, no more conjoined incomes, and the true cost of my lifestyle hadn't sunk in yet—I'd hired a cleaning service to do my house twice a month. The two ladies they assigned to me were nice enough. As I worked in a garage-turned-office attached to the residence, I often overheard them pattering about on cleaning days.

One day I heard one say to the other, "What ARE all these white crumbs everywhere?" Then they launched a deductive discussion. "They're everywhere in the bedroom and the bathrooms..." "But not so much in the kitchen..." I was too embarrassed to solve the mystery for them, though I did wonder how they'd react if I stuck my head out of the office to say, "Hey! That's ME you're talking about!"

You need to get your spouse educated, quick. At the same time, you have to defer to her own problems with your condition. I acquired a little hand-held vacuum cleaner and one of those mechanical carpet sweepers that brush up surface litter. Wife number three is a real devotee of hunter green and maroon, so the upholstery and the area rugs in my current home are definitely flake-unfriendly. I've made it a habit to sweep up after a good scratching session. Best of luck, Adrian! -Ed

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