It took months to get another appointment with Dr. K. (You knew that was coming, right?)
“I’m not absolutely certain,” he said after another look at a swatch of my affected scalp under a microscope. “But all the indicators point to psoriasis. It’s an auto-immune disorder that appears on the skin.”
It sounded terrible. But I learned that psoriasis is a very common, chronic skin condition caused by an immune system in overdrive which greatly increases the production of skin cells. As production increases, skin cells die and regrow more quickly. That causes a buildup of dead skin cells that results in itchy patches on the skin.
“How do you get it?” I asked.
“We don’t know for sure,” Dr. K. replied. “We think psoriasis is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental triggers.” He prescribed “Flood’s Ointment.” It’s nasty stuff. Smells like rotten eggs. Massage into scalp at bed time. Rinse off and shampoo in the morning. It’s not cheap, either. And not covered by insurance.
But it was the first treatment that actually had an effect, reducing both the size of the lesions and the infernal itching.
As Dr. K. pointed out, however, an auto-immune disorder of this type is controlled, not cured. After about a year of regular ointment applications, my psoriasis is finally under control. Not completely gone. But greatly reduced, and not spreading or growing.
How long did it take to wind through the Medicrat Maze to an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment?
About five years.
Since then, I’ve learned about a possible link between a Vitamin D deficiency and Psoriasis (also Zinc). See: Vitamin D for Psoriasis.
As you may know, Vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight. However, up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sun, and 40% of US residents are deficient in vitamin D (1, 2). Vitamin D is also an essential vitamin required by the body for the absorption of calcium, bone development, immune functioning, and alleviation of inflammation. (Emphasis added.)
Among other things:
Vitamin D, which your body can make when exposed to sunlight, has many health benefits that may help treat psoriasis. Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to psoriasis. While a deficiency doesn’t seem to cause psoriasis outright, it may impair the body’s ability to keep the skin healthy. This may increase flares. …
A study from 2011 found that vitamin D can strengthen the immune system. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune response, this effect could help treat the condition internally. (Emphasis added.)
I grew up in sun-drenched San Diego. It caught up with me in 2012 as basal cell carcinoma. I’m now very careful about sun exposure. Maybe too careful?
I now live on the wet, soggy Olympic Peninsula. For most of the year, sunshine is as rare as a slim sow. We have four distinct seasons: 1) Raining; 2) Just Stopped Raining; 3) Almost Raining, and 4) Construction. So it’s no surprise that a Vitamin D deficiency showed up in my routine blood work about five years ago. How did this escape the medical pros as it relates to psoriasis?
Indeed, not a single medical professional mentioned Vitamin D or any vitamin deficiency during this entire process. Not once. (I could add more here. But this is a G-rated blog. You can fill in the blanks yourself with your own colorful metaphor.)
While I can’t do anything about the weather and we’re not planning on moving any time soon, I’m all over:
If I’d only known this (and more) five years ago. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if they issue Purple Hearts for navigating the Medicrat Maze under fire? Askin’ for a friend.