Living with psoriasis in Alaska: How I manage against harsh weather
A lot of people I don't know sure do know a lot of things about me; a blogger's job is to tell the world their story, but I assume that like most other bloggers there are things you just don't talk about.
Like that time I lit a dish towel on fire or locked us all of the house (multiple times) and how I kill phones like they're going out of style, some subjects are not topical and some of them are just off limits. One thing I never talk about is my skin... yes I have skin... now that I'm not writing on my food blog let's talk about my skin and all its glorious problems like eczema, psoriasis and general dryness. And living in Alaska where we typically have winter weather for roughly six months, every single dry skin issue I have is exaggerated to the extreme.
My skin is never normal, whatever that is anyway. As a small child I suffered terribly from eczema, so bad that I wore some pretty serious semi-permanent bandage wraps to protect my arms from the rubbing of sleeves and my scratching fingers. Then in my teens while everyone I knew was suffering from greasy skin, acne breakouts, blackheads and used copious amounts of cover-up to hide all of that, I was on the extreme opposite side of that experience, I had dry skin. So dry that I was using moisturizer by the time I was 12 and I've never stopped. I used to get a lot of comments about my blemish-free skin but no one understood how painfully dry my face was and how many times a day I needed to slather on the moisturizer. Then in my 20s my face, while still being dry, began to break out, terrible blemishes on top of blemishes; suffice it to say my 20s more that made up for my blemish-free teen years.
But wait, that's not all, there's more!
While dry skin and eczema were out there for all the world to see I was also hiding sporadic painful psoriasis outbreaks. For me psoriasis comes and goes; I've got the kind of psoriasis that's called plaque, characterized by tender red sores covered in what appears to be scaly white skin that continually builds up and sloughs off. My first experience with psoriasis was when I was a teen; I had what initially looked and felt like a burn but I hadn't been burnt. In time that sore went away, but more came and went. As an adult I happened to be having a flare-up during one dermatologist appointment, and that's when I found out what it was. I was told to cover them to keep from itching and they'd eventually go away.
The battle plan
Since then, my main battle plan for dealing with aggressive psoriasis outbreaks is a two-in-one cover-up approach. 1) I cover it to hide it from the world because it's so unpleasant, and 2) covering up also means I won't scratch it and make it worse. All of my skin problems seem exacerbated by extreme dry, cold weather (Alaska!) so I avoid sudden temperature changes like going from a warm dry house to outside where it can be as cold as 30 degrees below zero without being properly covered. I always wear gloves, a scarf, long pants and a hat and I make sure to never have any wet skin exposed to the weather or I'll have an imminent psoriasis outbreak. I also live the healthiest lifestyle I can, exercising daily, getting plenty of sleep and a diet high in vegetables and protein; when I'm not practicing those habits my skin health suffers. I consider myself lucky; sounds crazy I know, because my psoriasis occurs mainly on my lower legs and mainly in the winter, which means covering up is easy.
There is some research now that suggests that these skin problems are actually linked to much bigger problems like food allergies, autoimmune diseases and low vitamin D levels. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a link between these ailments and autoimmune diseases; we have multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes in my immediate family, so we seem prone to autoimmune diseases. And furthermore, we live in the land of low sunlight so a link between vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune diseases seems just as likely. I guess I need to visit my primary care physician to see what's new in the areas of eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune diseases and vitamin D, but for now I'll keep on covering up and living the best healthy lifestyle I can.
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