Health AreasNon-communicable Diseases

My Psoriasis story; scaling beyond the scaly skin patches

For both times she was pregnant with her son and daughter, it was a break from dealing with a skin condition that has been part of her life for 15 years.Hellen Wangui is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. But she is also a different kind of advocate. Hellen is a Psoriasis champion which means that besides representing clients in court, she also spends a considerable amount of time every day explaining to the court of public opinion why her skin is dry, scaly and flaky. The dry flakes on her skin sometimes break away onto her clothes.

But this doesn’t bother her.“I have psoriasis, a skin condition that is highly misunderstood,” she kick-starts the conversations as she explains how the skin disease has defined her lifestyle. The skin on her hands and feet have blotches spread over all her skin which initially would make her conscious in public due to the curious stares.But she has learnt to be proud in her own skin.

                                                     Hellen Wangui is an Advocate of the High Court and a psoriasis champion.

Psoriasis and pregnancy
And as the world marked the World Psoriasis Day this week, Hellen takes time to explain how this chronic skin condition took a hiatus for nine months during pregnancy but later returned with a vengeance when she delivered.“My skin cells regenerate faster than a normal person’s skin hence I end up with extra skin cells that are usually very itchy and sometimes painful. However, during pregnancy, the skin condition ‘disappeared’ and for a moment I forgot my daily struggles.” says Hellen.


                                                                        Wangui Gathere in pregnancy. Photo courtesy

Skin Specialist Dr Evanson Kamuri defines psoriasis as a life-long skin condition that mostly affects legs, hands and the back making the skin dry, scaly and flaky. The World Health Organisation describes psoriasis as a chronic, painful, disfiguring, disabling and incurable disease. According to Dr Kamuri, psoriasis is caused by an overwhelming build-up of new cells in the top layer of the skin that leads to skin patches. “An improvement of the severity of their psoriatic disease in pregnancy is largely due to rise in the hormone progesterone. However some women also experience worse psoriasis during this time,” Dr Kamuri said.

Types of psoriasis
Psoriasis can also affect the nails, the skin around the mouth, and the area around genitals. Dr Kamuri further discusses the following types of psoriasis and the parts it affects;

• Psoriatic nail disease- nails
• Inverse psoriasis- armpits, the groin, under the breasts and around the genitals.
• Guttate psoriasis- affects children and young adults and affects trunk, arms, legs & scalp.
• Scalp Psoriasis scalp
• Plaque psoriasis- occurs anywhere
• Erythrodermic psoriasis- red peeling rash that burns. Though the causes of the condition are cited as largely unknown, some factors can trigger this skin condition. This includes mild trauma, sunburn, infections, medicines and stress. Dr Kamuri observes that whereas the triggers cannot be entirely avoided, it is paramount to ensure that healthy lifestyles are observed.

                                                                                    Hellen Wangui, photo courtesy.

Are there diet restrictions associated with psoriasis?

“Managing psoriasis is more than earing the right proportion of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins. It is also about observing your mental health because once the body is compromised and under pressure, it can trigger the skin condition or worsen it for psoriasis patients,” Dr Kamuri noted.

Triggers of psoriasis

Whereas the skin condition can run in families, sometimes the real causes are not well understood. Other triggers of psoriasis include;
• Stress
• Infections, such as strep throat or skin infections
• Injury to the skin, such as a cut or scrape, a bug bite, or a severe sunburn
• Stress
• Smoking
• Heavy alcohol consumption
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Certain medications for bipolar disorder, high blood pressure and antimalarial drugs

                                                                                   Hellen Wangui, Photo courtesy.

Psoriasis is also commonly associated with other conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, depression and anxiety. Due to the scaly-like appearance, psoriasis can affect self-confidence in the individuals especially due to the dry and scaly appearance.
Hellen has a few words of advice to deal with the stares.

“This is an opportunity for me to discuss the skin condition and assure them that it is not contagious,” Hellen says.

“I will wear my skin proudly,” she concluded.


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