Life Happens:Just scratching the surface

By Jeff Gates - For The Madison Press

Always itching to find out more.

We have all seen the commercial.

Golfing legend Phil Michelson is seen swinging his clubs and making amazing shots.

Then he starts talking about medication to stop the inflammation in his joints that affected his ability to operate the tools of his livelihood.

While the word ‘arthritis’ is readily understood by most when he describes the medical condition he battles with, the root form of the descriptive term that proceeds it is not.

Psoriasis is a disease which is a common denominator that links close to 125 million people worldwide, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Sunday, Oct. 29 was designated as World Psoriasis Day, dedicated to those who have been dealing with the issues related with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis.

With its pronunciation (the ‘p’ is silent), that sort of encapsulates an overwhelming feeling of those afflicted with this still relatively-unknown condition — dealing with it in silence. The reasoning is that it is not pleasant to talk about.

Plaque psoriasis is the most common form. A long-lasting autoimmune disease for which there is currently no cure, it often shows itself as red or white raised scales on various parts of the body. There are topical and injectable medications available — often quite pricey and what works for one person will not necessarily work for the other.

Like most diseases, there is a wide range of severity. There can be a small patch on the right elbow, while some may have it covering 75 percent of their body. And it is painful — both physically and mentally at times.

People try to keep it ‘undercover’ in several senses of the word. With the world fixated on body image, just imagine the inward struggles those with psoriasis might have.

What to wear in hot weather is one conundrum. While the sun is one of the friends to helping improve psoriasis, many who have it on arms and/or legs choose to don long sleeves and pants in 95 degree weather to minimize the stares.

We all reproduce, and shed, skin. While that seems disgusting (I remember seeing a sped up video of snakes doing that process), people with psoriasis do it at a much quicker pace. Partnered with the itching that ensues, a number of people with psoriasis sometimes leave a trail. Some have even been known to go to extremes — such as going into work early and vacuuming an office so others do not see what was left behind or putting on a costume at home for a community theatre productions so as to not be in the dressing room.

Even famous people who have it have just begun to come forward to share their stories.

Singer Art Garfunkel maintained his “sounds of silence” when he wasn’t always “feeling groovy.” Fellow entertainers Cyndi Lauper and LeAnn Rimes have overcome the self-conscious stigmas to excel in their particular musical genres.

While this seems like a strange topic for a column — and I debated about doing it — people with psoriasis need to know they are not alone. I have spent many years and way too much energy to try to cover my condition. It was only recently that I came to the realization that it is a part of who I am, but it does not define me.

I’m fortunate to have a very supportive family who understands the struggles, but still for 25-plus years, I thought I was the only one so I chose to suffer in silence. It takes a lot of inner strength to deal with the appearance and the pain, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m sometimes in a constant state of frustration.

People with psoriasis are not looking for sympathy, just understanding. It is not life-threatening, but absolutely life-altering.

I just want people with psoriasis to know that for as long as I’m around — you are definitely not alone.

As I always tell my kids — you don’t always know another person’s story.

I hope sharing this chapter of mine can help someone else realize they are not alone.

By Jeff Gates

For The Madison Press

Jeff Gates has been a free-lance writer for The Madison Press since 1996. Future column suggestions and/or comments? Contact:

Jeff Gates has been a free-lance writer for The Madison Press since 1996. Future column suggestions and/or comments? Contact: