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'You'd itch until there was blood - the pain was a better feeling'

The illness presents as scaly patches of silvery or red skin and can cause severe discomfort for sufferers.

Image: Shutterstock/2Ban

OVER 100,000 PEOPLE in Ireland suffer from psoriasis.

The illness presents as scaly patches of silvery or red skin and can cause severe discomfort for sufferers.

Of those who suffer, 32% of people living with psoriasis can also suffer with depression and one in 20 people are known to have contemplated suicide.

A new report released by LEO Pharma and the Patients Association (UK), in association with the Irish Skin Foundation highlights the debilitating effect psoriasis can have on those with the illness.

One such sufferer is Marion Morrissey from Limerick. She developed the illness 25 years ago and lived with it until an unrelated prescription was found to dampen her symptoms. However, years spent living with psoriasis means Marion knows the effects it can have.

“I have it longer than I was without it now.

“It certainly affects your day-to-day life in relation to doing the cover up. You could never wear black or navy because you’d look like you had awful dandruff. You couldn’t wear skirts or dresses. There’s a massive amount of thought that goes into every day.”

On top of the covering up, some sufferers endure severe itching, which can cause serious pain.

You’d itch until there was blood – the pain was a better feeling.
When my psoriasis was at its worst, in my late teens and twenties, I felt very self-conscious and embarrassed by my skin. It affected every aspect of my life – from avoiding activities like swimming to wearing clothes that would cover up my arms and legs, even in summer, to waking up at 4am to take my medication so that the pain from my arthritis was just about bearable by 7am.

“I’d tried everything, every type of cream, oil, therapy – nothing worked.

“At times, it was like leading a double life, covering my body in creams and ointments an hour before school or work and an hour afterwards, completely unbeknownst to my friends and colleagues.

“It’s time consuming and you just get sick of it. There was no trigger, nothing made it worse and nothing made it better. Unlike some people, even the sun never helped me.”

Having had 75% body coverage, Marion’s over-riding advice to anyone who may be suffering is to see a doctor.

“People don’t feel like they should go to the GP. But I would tell them to do their own research and go to a GP and ask for a referral to a dermatologist.”

“Right now in Ireland we are failing thousands of people who have psoriasis. Despite many effective new treatments, access to these is poor and unequal,” said Dr Marina O’Kane, Consultant Dermatologist at Beaumont Hospital & Board Member, Irish Skin Foundation.

This is especially worrying as compared to other chronic autoimmune diseases, psoriasis can develop at an early age and is notorious for stealing confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. Bullying, workplace discrimination and social isolation are common – due to highly visible lesions – and when people finally reach a dermatologist, many are completely demoralised, having lost all hope.

The report found that 40% of sufferers feel psoriasis has affected their relationship, and of these almost a third avoid intimate relationships. It further showed that almost half of people with psoriasis who are in employment report that their condition limits their income or future earnings, with individuals taking up to 26 sick days a year, and nearly one fifth claiming to have quit their job or been dismissed as a result of their psoriasis.

Read: People living with psoriasis ‘avoid social situations’

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