The word “psoriasis” got its name from the Greek word for “to itch”. In medical terms, psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that is characterized by scaling and inflammation. Red, thickened eruptions appear on the surface of the skin and begin to itch and may burn. These areas form thick, multi-layered, silvery scales over the reddened lesions. Psoriasis most often occurs on the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, face, palms, and soles of the feet, but it can affect any skin site. It may also appear in the fingernails, the toenails, and the soft tissues inside the mouth and genitalia.
As of present, the cause of psoriasis is still unknown. However, recent discoveries point to an abnormality in the functioning of white cells (specifically T cells) that normally help protect the body against infection and disease. When this abnormality occurs, the body’s immune system causes the skin cells to reproduce in 3 to 4 days instead of 26 to 30 days. Normal skin cells are shed from the body unnoticed, but in the skin infected with psoriasis, this “shedding off” tends to be conspicuous because the skin becomes red from the increased blood supply to the rapidly dividing cells and the scales are composed of dead skin cells. Other studies, however, point to genes as the main culprit, meaning that psoriasis is inherited. In most cases, infections, especially streptococcal ones, and physical and emotional stress trigger the aggravation of psoriasis.
There is still no known cure, but there are many effective treatments, mainly to ease the physical discomfort and to lessen the scales and inflammation. Psoriasis is not contagious and it does not spread from one part of the body to another. Psoriasis is not really very hard to understand. It does not require an extensive knowledge of medicine. A quick trip to the library and internet is sufficient to comprehend the definition, characteristics, causes, and other technical aspects of this disease. But it is not as simple as it may seem. Some people blessed with a normal and healthy skin may think otherwise, but do they really understand what psoriasis is, that is, in the perspective of psoriasis patients? Can they really feel the mixed emotions of people diagnosed with psoriasis, especially severe psoriasis?
For “normal” people, psoriasis is just another kind of skin disease, mainly associated with something dirty, disgusting, infectious, and other negative connotations. So whenever they see something “abnormal” like psoriasis, their instinct is to turn away from that detestable “something” either in fear or in contempt. In any way, this is doing people with psoriasis a grave injustice. Due to the former’s ignorance, they added to the unhappiness of these psoriasis victims and caused them to suffer more than they ought to. For example, market vendors, seeing the open wounds and the thick scales and thinking that theirs is a contagious disease, refuse to sell their products to these inflicted people. Drivers of public utility vehicles also refuse to accept them as passengers. In public places, they have to endure the stares and murmurs of dislike of other people.
It is inevitable that people with psoriasis will feel depressed about their disease. Aside from the itchiness, the social prejudice against them is more than enough to make them feel dejected. For them, psoriasis is more than just a skin disease. It is a biological enemy that has successfully stolen away their happiness. With no regards for their consent, it has invaded their lives, sticking around to make their lives as awful as possible. In an instant, they have no control on their lives.
Their work or study is affected, and severe damage may be inflicted on their careers. Job opportunities will of course narrow down, especially those which required social interaction. Sports, especially swimming, can be curtailed, and hobbies and recreation interfered with. Family life and relationships with friends and loved ones will also suffer a great impact. All in all, these factors add up to a physically, emotionally, and mentally tortured individual. Of course, not all are affected as seriously as mentioned since others have supportive families or have strong dispositions. But it cannot be denied that they experience, in some way or another, a decrease in self-esteem.
It is not entirely their mistake that people without psoriasis will tend to avoid those with the disease. They simply lacked knowledge regarding psoriasis. However, if they have already known that psoriasis is not really contagious, that it is not due to dirtiness, then it becomes their obligation to understand them and sympathize with them. They should try not to create more unhappiness by making faces or nasty comments, mocking them, or being rude to them. They should instead think of psoriasis as something that shows them how fortunate they are to be able to lead a normal life.
On the other hand, people inflicted with psoriasis should not let it control their lives. They should not wallow in self-pity and feel ashamed of themselves since psoriasis is not evil and they have not done anything wrong. No one has the right to make them feel bad about themselves just because of some patches of ugly reddish lesions. Physical beauty has never been a good measure of beauty for it is only ephemeral. True beauty lies in the courage and compassion that reside inside one’s heart.
They should not view psoriasis as a hindrance to leading a productive life, and instead, be brave to face it as a challenge to overcome the obstructions and to emerge victorious after a long drawn-out battle. It should be a stepping-stone to becoming a stronger and more successful person than before. It has become a part of their lives, and they would have to learn to not only accept it, but also live with it harmoniously.