It’s well known that psoriasis can develop or be exacerbated at times of stress. When I was 17 I was studying for my A Levels like many teenagers. For most this is a very stressful time and I was no different. Little spots of psoriasis started appearing all over my body and quickly grew to be large red splodges that were itchy, sore and embarrassing.

The initial treatment was to use the latest steroid creams that were available at the time. Now, at this point, I should say the treatments you choose to make use of are completely personal; and really, depend on the type and severity of your psoriasis. Always listen to the advice of your doctor! For me, at that time in my life and with such widespread plaques, the creams just left me fed up and frustrated. I was spending up to an hour each evening trying to apply the creams; and for me, I felt like they weren’t helping.

Discussions were had and I was referred to a dermatologist at my local hospital. Aside from the embarrassment of having to get down to your underwear in front of a complete stranger, I was reassured to hear that it was considered quite severe and there were options. It was at this stage, I was told about the possibility of light treatment.

Treatment may have changed since then, but at the time (2000), there were two types of light treatment used for psoriasis.
1. Psoralen combined with UVA (PUVA) and
2. UVB.

It was suggested I have UVB.

For the next six months I would go to my local hospital, usually about once or twice a week. All it involved was turning up, taking all my clothes off, wearing a pair of very fetching goggles (complete with elastic head band) and standing in the middle of a box with strip light bulbs all around me. I also had to slowly turn with my arms up which always made me feel like a sausage under a grill.

When I first started the treatment, I was in that box for no more that 30 seconds. This is a really important point. If you are thinking about using a conventional sunbed, firstly, don’t. It’s not the same type of light. Secondly, unless you have olive or darker skin, the likelihood of you burning is very high. It’s not worth it. Go and see your doctor.

Even under medical supervision, you can get burnt. Once, after being in the light box for probably no more than 2 minutes, I got a bit burnt. Not like you would from sunbathing -more of an all-over body cooking. I had gone home feeling fine, and a few hours later, I suddenly felt extremely hot and had a sense of pinpricks over my whole skin. It was distressing; and I flung myself under a cold shower, which didn’t really help. Within an hour or so my skin had calmed down. I let the nurse know of my experience and we subsequently kept the time down. Don’t worry too much if that happens to you and make sure you always let the nurse know how you felt afterwards. It’s an intensive treatment for your skin and will take time to get right.

UVB light treatment worked wonders for me. It’s not a long term answer, but, at times of high stress and widespread patches, it is a therapeutic option available. By the end of six months, not only was my psoriasis gone, but also I had an amazing base tan for my post-A Level inter-railing trip! However, I did have more than a passing resemblance to Geri Halliwell during her skinny yoga-obsessed phase and impressive goggle marks…



Jennifer White is a public affairs consultant who specialises in health at Lexington Communications. She has had psoriasis her whole life and is keen to share her experiences with others in the hope it might help them feel better about the condition. She regularly tweets on health policy and can be followed @JOCWhite.

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