Time was when I thought psoriasis was an obscure pharaoh, possibly one of the late and degenerate Ptolemies. Or possibly a small town in Kansas (pop. 207).
Until I got it myself. I’d had infantile eczema until the age of five, and I’d always been prone to a few itchy patches of skin here and there, but it really blew up in 1987 when I moved to London and started to work for Your Favourite Weekly Professional Science Magazine Beginning With N. (In case any senior colleagues are reading this, cause-and-effect are not implied.)
I have the most common form – itchy, scaly patches on the skin that come and go without much rhyme or reason. Luckily it’s not the arthritic sort so memorably depicted by the late Dennis Potter in The Singing Detective.
I’ve tried all sorts of remedies, from mild cortisone ointments and aloe vera, to moisturisers and bathing thrice in the River Jordan, but I’m not a very cooperative patient. I loathe smearing myself in ichors, unguents, effluents and similar gunk (note to self – I’d be awful as a drag queen). At one point I was under the care of a consultant with the marvellous name of Dr Creamer, who said that dermatology was the best specialism to have. Your patients never actually died of their condition, but neither did they ever get better.
At one point when my psoriasis was really deep-seated I underwent a course of phototherapy, where I’d be
sent into the woods to take photographs of wildlife made to stand up in a kind of vertical sunbed while they flashed UV light at me. This certainly had an effect – my psoriasis abated for quite a while, though it never entirely went away. In addition to sunshine, stress might also have an effect. My psoriasis receded somewhat when I spent ten days in Hawai’i doing nothing more stressful than paddling in rockpools talking to sea cucumbers.
Psoriasis is believed to be related to the immune system, and once you know that, you’re into Terra Incognita. Here be
macrophages NK cells complement dragons. It’s also believed to have a genetic component, but that’s no big deal either. Everything has a genetic component, yada yada, tell us something we don’t know.
One thing that the extensive wikipedia article on psoriasis doesn’t mention is diet. Google ‘diet’ and ‘psoriasis’, though, and it’s a different story. The web is rich in much anecdote about how cutting out certain foods (wheat gluten crops up) and eating more of other foods (oily fish) can alleviate psoriasis – and Google Scholar is also a
sauce tzores source of a great deal of vague and conflicting information. In that spirit I’d like to add my own two penn’orth.
As some of you might remember I visited China for ten days in 2010, and resolved to eat Chinese as much as I could. In that post I noted that my psoriasis all but disappeared in that trip. I hypothesized that the almost total lack of dairy products might have been a cause. I have never seriously tried to test that hypothesis.
Until, that is, last Tuesday, when I resolved to cut out butter, cheese (sigh! I love cheese) and milk, for a trial period of two or three weeks, to see if this has any effect. Goodbye grande latte, hello double expresso. I am however going to keep on eating things with gluten (wheat and bread and so on) to avoid confusion.
It’s now Friday.
The more ephemeral patches of psoriasis have all but faded to almost nothing. The more deep-seated areas, around my knees and elbows and other places I won’t mention on a family web platform, already look less angry.
I wonder if I have found IT? The CURE?
Watch this space.