Psoriasis and COVID-19

 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching impacts.

We’ve all experienced enormous changes in our lives.  We are home schooling and our teenagers are feeling grounded and isolated from their friends.  We’re missing loved ones and our working lives are unrecognisable.

Some people with psoriasis are having to shield because of the immunosuppressant medication they take and now have to consider themselves ‘extremely vulnerable’ which must be very strange, especially if you’re feeling well.

For others, the lockdown has meant dermatology appointments cancelled, even longer waiting lists, systemic treatments stopped or postponed and phototherapy put on hold.  Increased hand washing and alcohol gels can leave hands sore and cracked.

For me, the past few months have seen my psoriasis flare up. In February we had a family holiday and for the first time in many years I went away with clear skin and there were no stresses about swimming or wearing shorts. But jump forward to June and I’m now back to angry plaques over most of my body.  I put this down to the big changes in my routine.

Work was intense for the first few weeks of the pandemic as we prepared ourselves to deal with the situation.  As a busy clinical psychologist working in the NHS, I needed to adapt to virtual therapy, to support patients who had started shielding as well as providing support for front-line staff.  Overnight I saw big increases in anxiety and distress in both patients and staff.

I went from never having done virtual therapy to back to back zoom sessions every day. Working in two different part-time roles from home meant I was inundated with urgent emails and my working day continued into the evenings and over the weekend.  Shifts working in the hospital became a fearful experience and I worried about picking up the Corona virus and bringing it back home to my family.  All the while my children were adjusting to home schooling and also needed help and support to navigate this.

What all this meant for me was my well established routines were very disrupted.  I normally follow a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet but began to eat more convenient, comfort foods with a few glasses of wine here and there.  My sleep was also really poor and when I did manage to drop off, my dreams were vivid and frightening.

Things have started to settle down, as they have a habit of doing.  I’ve adjusted to the new ways of working and we have begun to establish new norms.  My diet is almost back to WFPB and I’ve started taking probiotics which has made me feel much better inside and out.

This has led me to reflect on how psoriasis often reacts badly to changes in routine and perhaps this is why people often feel that stress makes psoriasis worse.

As the weeks and months pass, we‘ll learn more about the impact of COVID-19 on chronic health conditions like psoriasis.  The International Psoriasis Council has up to date information on coronavirus and psoriasis. The Psoriasis Association is also a great source for support, information and resources.

It’s important to remember

  • If your psoriasis has flared up you can still make an appointment with your GP, they will have measures in place to keep you safe.  Your dermatology clinic may be offering virtual clinic appointments too.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Life has changed for all us but we will get back to normal. Don’t fret if your diet has gone a bit awry.  Enjoy the indulgences and pick up again when you feel less stressed.
  • Read this for advice on getting a better night’s sleep.
  • Join a psoriasis forum and talk with other people with psoriasis.  It’s a great way to get support.
  • Stay safe.

 

How has the pandemic affected you?  Please leave a comment below.