Ros Foreman has had severe psoriasis since childhood. Now 56 at the time of this interview, she talks about how pregnancy, sunshine and medicines have helped.
“I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was nine. I’d been skipping to school and fell over and grazed my knees and elbows. The grazes didn’t heal and within a short while, my legs and arms were covered with psoriasis.
“The diagnosis wasn’t a surprise. Psoriasis runs in my family. My aunties and uncles on both sides had it, one uncle was so severely affected that he was regularly hospitalised.
“Lots of my family have asthma too, and there's a strong link between asthma and psoriasis; my brother died after a severe asthma attack when he was 13 (and I was nine).
“It was hard growing up with psoriasis. I suffered at school because you’re seen as an ‘odd’ child and it made me quite shy and inhibited.
“I was backwards and forwards to the doctors all the time and tried all the usual lotions and potions, but they only helped a little."
Dry heat and sunshine helps psoriasis
“A breakthrough came in my early 20s when my husband had a job opportunity and we moved to southern California. Within six months of arriving, my psoriasis had virtually disappeared. The dry, sunny, warm climate – and being able to walk around in shirts and T-shirts the whole time – really helped.
“After seven years we returned to the UK and within a few months my psoriasis was back – and with a vengeance. It’s been with me most of the time ever since.
“I’ve had courses of UV light therapy, which help temporarily, and I’m now taking an oral treatment called methotrexate, which definitely suppresses the symptoms. But I don’t know what will happen in the future. My psoriasis seems to be getting worse with age.”
Pregnancy and psoriasis
Aside from the physical burdens of living with and treating psoriasis, Ros says the condition really gets her down psychologically.
“I’m a naturally sociable person, but sometimes I shut myself in the house and sink into a deep, dark place. I often don’t feel good about myself and my confidence falls to rock bottom.
“It’s sad but I feel that it’s restricted my life in many ways. For example, I always wanted to be an air hostess when I was younger, but I knew they’d never take me because of my skin.”
Ros recalls that she was absolutely petrified of having children in case she passed psoriasis, and other related illnesses like asthma, on to them. “It was a big, big consideration and I put off pregnancy for 10 years because I didn’t want any kids to have this horrible disease and have to go through what I have.
“Thankfully, I decided to go ahead and I now have three sons – none of whom have psoriasis at the moment, thankfully. Ironically, my psoriasis improved during pregnancy."
Moisturisers and diet
Roz, from Woking in Surrey, says she relies on a daily skincare regime in addition to her medicines.
“Every day I apply moisturising creams to my whole body, ideally morning, noon and night. It’s time-consuming and messy, but I have to do it. I also steer clear of acidic drinks like orange juice because I think that makes it worse in my case.
“The weather makes a big difference. Cold winters are the worst possible climate for me. Covering up with layers of clothes and having the heating on means my skin dehydrates and I have to constantly moisturise, which is really time-consuming.
Spring and summer are so much nicer because my skin improves with the warmth and I find it easier to look after my skin when I’m wearing summer clothes."
Read more about psoriasis.