Marjorie Brinston of Old Shop, Trinity Bay has been living with psoriasis since she was seven. âAs a kid, having psoriasis was just normal for me,â the 51-year-old said.
But when Brinston moved to St. Johnâs to study social work at Memorial University, it started getting worse, and she began spending more time covering the lesions on her arms and legs.
Sheâs gone through various medications, including applying an ointment and wrapping the lesions with plastic cling wrap, but they provided only temporary relief from the itching and burning and didnât clear her skin.
St. Johnâs-based dermatologist Dr. Wayne Gulliver has been treating Brinston for more than 20 years.
Brinston said she was in her 40s before she found a medication that worked for her.
The drug left her completely clear of lesions for the first time since her childhood, she said, but it was taken off the market because of the adverse side-effects some people were experiencing.
âIt was only when I finally got clear of psoriasis that I realized just how much it really did bother me,â she said.
Brinston now controls her psoriasis by giving herself an injection twice a week. She said itâs important to talk about psoriasis with others.
âWe need to be open about it,â she said.
âWe need to know that there are a lot of us out there and we all need support.â
Gulliver said heâs seen patients so ashamed of their psoriasis, theyâre reluctant to show him the red patches of scaly skin on their body. To reassure them, he places his hands on the lesions.
âYou need them to know youâre not afraid of the disease, that you know how to treat it and that youâre going to get them better.â
Psoriasis is a non-contagious genetic, autoimmune, inflammatory disorder that affects the skin. But Gulliver said âthe skin is just the tip of the iceberg.â
Ten to 30 per cent of people with psoriasis also have inflammatory arthritis, he said.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety and depression are also associated with psoriasis.
Yet Gulliver said a recent study that polled dermatologists and Canadians with psoriasis found that patients are not discussing the impact the disease is having on their lives.
Gulliver is part of a national online disease education program called Psoriasis Connections. The website is operated by pharmaceutical companies Amgen Canada and Pfizer Canada.
Psoriasis Connections is currently hosting a âPsoriasis Exposedâ photo contest inviting Canadians to submit a photo and a short description of how psoriasis affects their lives.
Gulliver is one of the judges in the contest, which is accepting entries until Nov. 11. The prize is a Nikon digital camera.
âThe contest will allow us to get the word out and let patients know that dermatologists are here and interested in looking after them and that we have access to first-rate care and can help many of them,â Gulliver said.