Think quick! What is the biggest organ in the human body? … If you said the skin then you would be correct. The skin is the biggest organ in the body. Not only does it serve as a means of protection but help’s give the body structure, aids in temperature regulation and removes toxins. It really is a remarkable thing that the vast majority of us take for granted. I for one will hold my hands up and admit that I took my skin for granted. I have been very lucky throughout my teenage years and twenties to have had very good skin. Yes I got the odd breakout and cursed the freckles on my face but overall I did not have any real skin issue. Roll on 10+ years and my skin has never looked or felt so bad.
At the start of 2017, I started to develop skin rashes on my legs. Seeing as I was attending an infectious disease Dr, I thought it no harm to mention it to him. After observing my skin, he thought the rashes resembled shingles and prescribed a course of anti viral medication. Unfortunately, this did not help and the rashes continued to spread until he suggested I attend a dermatologist. As 2017 progressed the rashes continued to spread. So much so that by the time I finally got to see a dermatologist, a good 60% of the entire surface of my legs was covered in unsightly red patches. The dermatology team (that examined me in October 2017) were a tad perplexed as to what was going on and so ran a series of tests. They had an inkling it was psoriasis related so started me on a course of topical solutions. These covered everything from a coal-tar preparation with cocoa butter to steroid lotion.
Christmas came and went and the rashes remained and continued to spread. They started to feel extremely painful and itchy. So much so that it affected both my sleep and the type of fabric I could tolerate against my skin. The sensations experienced altered between a severe itch to the feeling of my skin being on fire. There was never any downtime and still to this day those sensations occur. My skin could only tolerate tepid water, a gentle shower gel (moo-goo milk shower cream) and loose cotton clothing and bed sheets. By the time my follow-up appointment with the dermatologist came around (March 2018), the rashes had fused together to form massive red patchy lesions that extended all over my legs, the base of my back, my right elbow, scalp, ears and entire hairline. It is no joke when I say that I resemble a giant rice crispy. This may be a bit tmi but you can identify where exactly I have been in my house by the trail of dead skin that quite drastically fall’s off my body. It is no exaggeration that I have to brush the floor numerous times each day to remove these crispy flakes of skin. Not only is this an extremely embarrassing problem but it is also extremely painful.
So as my skin decided to go all out rice crispy mode, Murphy’s law just had to kind of kick in basically throwing another spanner in the works. Not only did my face decide to suddenly develop adult acne but two of the toes on my right foot decided to distort themselves and become extremely painful. That is when a mri detected arthritic disease in the second and fourth metatarsal head. I am now waiting to see a rheumatologist with the diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis hanging over me. The previous topical treatments that I applied religiously to the skin proved unsuccessful so I am currently waiting to receive light therapy. This form of treatment is undertaken in the hospital three times a week over a 10 to 12 week period. Basically a machine will emit UVB rays in a controlled environment to help slow down the build up of skin cells and speed up repair. I have been told it is a successful form of treatment for my recently diagnosed ‘severe psoriasis’ but the waiting list is over three months long so I am still waiting a start date.
Face wise I started applying a topical ointment called treclin gel to help treat the acne. I have been applying this gel for over four weeks now and am suffering one hell of a breakout. I have never seen my skin so bad. I have spots covering my entire face, even places I never experienced spots before. As the ointment is a form of vitamin A (retinol) the gel must first penetrate the deepest layers of the skin to remove all traces of rumbling acne, debre and bacteria. Unfortunately this causes a purging effect hence the massive breakout. I have been told to be patient throughout this confidence shattering process as the skin generally gets worse before it gets better. This is certainly challenging as I am limited to what I can apply to my skin and cannot hide behind any makeup. I need to let the ointment do its job whilst also being extremely gentle with my skin. All I can say is thank god for all the cold weather this past while as I have been able to hide behind a big cuddly scarf.
I now understand the true psychological implications of suffering with skin issues. I am an adult and feel completely self-conscious letting anybody see my skin. God only knows how tough it is when a teenager experiences these issues. Your self-confidence can really take a nose dive. Kevin experienced acne as a teen and he is very open about how it affected him psychologically. I tried to understand as best I could but only now do I fully understand the true implications it has on your mental health. I am now experiencing a taste of what he went through. I know I am lucky to be in a loving relationship and I am thankful that I know beauty is not what sits on the surface but it is still extremely challenging all the same. All I can do at the moment is keep applying my topical ointments, wait patiently for my hospital appointments and try limit the stress levels. Seemingly psoriasis can flair really badly when you experience a lot of stress. In terms of how and why my skin is like how it is, well my Consultant’s best guess is that the Lyme and co-infections kick-started these autoimmune conditions. The correct term being post infectious autoimmunity. The acne probably occurring due to the vast amount of inflammation going on inside my body. Yes it feels like I am being constantly kicked when I am already down but this is the reality of illness and the chain of events that can occur. I am hopeful it can be successfully treated but I am also aware of the fact that I need to address my self-esteem/self-confidence issues. I am not going to lie, this whole experience (the Lyme disease and skin issues) has resulted in me feeling a certain degree of body dismorphia. I know I may come across a positive person but my self-confidence is crippling low. So much so that I look at my body with complete disgust almost daily. I have been assured that this can and does occur during times of extreme physical illness and psychological stress. I may be just touching on this sensitive subject but I hope to explore it in some more detail over the coming months. I think it is an important issue that many people don’t talk openly about.