Going public with psoriasis

Danette Dooley
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Marjorie Brinston of Old Shop, Trinity Bay has been living with psoriasis since she was seven.  “As a kid, having psoriasis was just normal for me,” the 51-year-old said.

But when Brinston moved to St. John’s 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.

She’s 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 didn’t clear her skin.

St. John’s-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.

“It was only when I finally got clear of psoriasis that I realized just how much it really did bother me,” she said.

Brinston now controls her psoriasis by giving herself an injection twice a week. She said it’s important to talk about psoriasis with others.

“We need to be open about it,” she said.

“We need to know that there are a lot of us out there and we all need support.”

Gulliver said he’s seen patients so ashamed of their psoriasis, they’re reluctant to show him the red patches of scaly skin on their body. To reassure them, he places his hands on the lesions.

“You need them to know you’re not afraid of the disease, that you know how to treat it and that you’re going to get them better.”

Psoriasis is a non-contagious genetic, autoimmune, inflammatory disorder that affects the skin. But Gulliver said “the skin is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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 “Psoriasis Exposed” 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.

“The 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,” Gulliver said.

 

Organizations: Old Shop, Amgen Canada

Geographic location: Trinity Bay

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  • Susan White
    October 17, 2011 - 19:24

    I live in Montreal but was born and raised in Newfoundland. I read somewhere that many Newfoundlanders are afflicted with Psosaris. I have had this since I was 10 years old. Many times I have been asked what is the matter with my arms and legs. I have been embarassed by this skin disease many times. Some times it seems to clear up and I am almost free of it but then it returns . I remember when I was a young girl I always wore long sleeves and pants or long skirts to cover my affected parts.