‘It is not all gloomy if you’ve psoriasis’

Hellen Wangui ,28 years with a skin condition called Psoriasis she has been having for 13years.19th APRIL 2017 PHOTO DAVID GICHURU

She basked in her rosy glow during pregnancy and wished it could last forever. However, after the birth of her son, a skin condition she has battled since 2008 was back with a vengeance.

Hellen Wangui Gathere, 28, is suffering from psoriasis, a condition that makes her skin appear dry, scaly and flaky on the legs, hands and back.

The Advocate of the High Court of Kenya is a member of the Psoriasis Association of Kenya that seeks to create awareness, champion for improved medical care and research on the disease.

“I choose to speak about psoriasis because it is often misunderstood and persons with the condition stigmatised or prevented from participating in social activities,” said the mother of a nine-month old boy.

Individuals with the condition are prone to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke and liver disease among other lifestyle diseases.

Psoriasis is not contagious, however, if not properly managed, it can lead to heart complications like hardening and narrowing of artery walls, diabetes and arthritis.

These underlying complications worried Wangui when she was pregnant with her first child last year.

It’s an unpredictable scenario when a person with psoriasis is pregnant because it can either improve, worsen or remain unchanged.

Luckily, pregnancy favoured Wangui, the condition was suppressed leaving a flawless youthful skin.

“My skin took a different turn. Psoriasis ‘disappeared’ leaving me with an even-toned skin. It felt great to have smooth skin that I could rub without the dry and scaly feel,” said Wangui in an interview with  Saturday Standard.

On the advice of her dermatologist, she discontinued the oral medicines and ointments that had become a daily routine before pregnancy.

“For a while, I forgot about psoriasis and concentrated on my pregnancy that was also trouble-free,” she added.

But after delivery, psoriasis was back and she had to start a regime of oral medicines, ointments and phototherapy.

“It is not all gloomy because I know how to take care of my skin to prevent flares. I am more concerned about a young lady or man too embarrassed to admit that they have psoriaisis and take an extra step to seek medical assistance,” said Wangui.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes psoriasis as a chronic, painful, disfiguring, disabling and incurable disease.

Consultant skin specialist Hoseah Waweru describes psoriasis as a build up of new cells in the top layer of the skin, forming a scaly-like appearance.

“These skin cells grow faster than your body can shed them off leaving thick red patches,” says Dr Waweru. In 2014, he was part of a delegation to the 67th World Health Assembly urging the member states to recognise psoriasis as a serious non communicable disease.

The resolution was adopted as World Health Assembly resolution WHA67.9 and it highlighted that many people in the world suffer needlessly from psoriasis due to incorrect or delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment options and insufficient access to care, and because of social stigmatisation.

Though there are various types of psoriasis, Dr Waweru estimates that about one in every two persons have a type known as scalp psoriasis which has a silvery and powdery appearance, but very different from dandruff.

What causes this skin condition?

Though the causes of the condition remain largely unknown, it can be provoked by external and internal triggers, including mild trauma, sunburn, infections, medicines and stress.

Dr Evanson Kamuri, a dermatologist, said that the condition most likely runs in families. However, he advice’s one to consult a skin specialist on medicines, both topical and oral, that are best suited for use during pregnancy.

Phototherapy, also known as light therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to help treat psoriasis. 

Wangui said this method is effective but expensive. “I need two phototherapy sessions twice a week at Sh3,000 each besides oral medicines that cost Sh36,000 per month,” she said.

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