Studying and Living with Psoriasis
Psoriasis is uncomfortable. It can be sore and itchy and, not only that, but the treatments you use can be greasy, messy and smelly.
It can be hard to get through the day without your psoriasis making you feel uncomfortable in one way or another, especially when you’re at school, college or work and can’t just go and have a bath or slather yourself in ointment whenever your feel like it.
Getting through the day
We’ve come up with a few tips, based on what people with psoriasis have told us, to hopefully help you get through the day with a bit more ease:
- If you can be flexible with when you use your topical treatments, try using them in the evening, before bed. Anything time-consuming is often easier to apply in the evening, as in the morning you’re busy rushing around trying to get out of the house on time. Anything that leaves a smell, or takes ages to sink in might leave you feeling uncomfortable and lacking confidence as you start to go about your day, so, again, night time application might be a good idea. It’s important, however, that you do follow the instructions of your GP, or on the treatment leaflet, regarding when and how many times a day you should use it.
- If there’s a reason why you’re not using a treatment - maybe it's too greasy, you hate the smell, or you just keep forgetting - don’t be afraid to tell your GP about it. There are plenty of topical treatments you can try, and no psoriasis treatment is going to work if it just sits in your drawer. We don’t all like the same toothpaste, so we’re not all going to like the same treatment. That said, you do have to give topical treatments time - weeks rather than days - to work.
- Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise! It’s the golden rule for people with psoriasis, as it can make your skin feel that much better, and can help your active treatments to be better absorbed. Some people find it’s best to use a lighter cream or lotion in the morning, as it sinks in quickly and won’t leave you running late or feeling greasy all day. If you do this, try using a heavier ointment before bed, to give your skin the intense moisturising it needs overnight.
- Dispense some of your moisturiser into a smaller pot that you can keep in your bag. That way, you can top up as and when you like, all day. This is especially useful in Winter, when the cold weather means sore, dry skin. If you’re not great at being organised (who is?) you could leave one in your everyday bag, school or college locker, gym bag, travel bag, whatever. Then you know you’ve always got some moisturiser ready, wherever you are.
- It’s best to wear cotton clothes whenever you can, as this lets the skin breathe and tends not to irritate psoriasis. If you have a uniform that isn’t cotton, try wearing cotton underclothes, such as a tshirt under your shirt.
Dealing with people
Even if you have psoriasis in easy-to-cover areas, there are going to be times when people see your psoriasis, such as when wearing shorts or skirts, when getting changed for exercise, or out shopping and trying on new clothes.
General awareness of psoriasis isn’t always great. People might stare, because they don’t know what it is, or make comments or faces. This is - without a doubt - hard to deal with, and everybody has a different way of coping. It might help to try to explain your condition, and to reassure others that it’s not contagious, something along the lines of “Oh, that’s psoriasis. It’s a condition where I produce too much skin, it’s not contagious”. Some people who find it particularly difficult to talk about their condition may say something like this and then change the subject quickly afterwards, with something like “I like your dress”, or “Let’s go to class now?”
Unfortunately, there may also be occasions where teachers or employers also don’t know much about your condition. Again, you should do your best to explain, and the Psoriasis Association is able to provide materials to help you do this. If you experience particularly bad reactions from your peers, your teacher or employer may be willing to hold a session to educate them about your condition. Again, get in touch with the Psoriasis Association, as we have materials that can help.
Important things to remember if you are being bullied:
- It’s not your fault that you have psoriasis, and it’s not your fault that you’re being bullied. You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are.
- Ask for help. Talk to someone you trust, and, when you feel ready, report the bullying to someone with authority, such as a teacher at school or college, or a manager at work.
- If you want advice on bullying, get in touch with Bullying UK.
Exams and coursework
Whether it’s GCSEs, A Levels, or deadlines at college or uni, there’s no denying that exams and coursework make for stressful times.
As we’ve said before, you might find that stress can trigger your psoriasis, or make existing psoriasis worse. It’s possible to end up in a vicious cycle where you’re stressing about exams, which makes your psoriasis worse, which then makes you stress even more… You can picture the scene.
The aim here is to try and keep stress and anxiety to a minimum, and find ways of fitting your psoriasis treatment in to your already hectic life - helping you to perform well in your exams, and stay feeling well by keeping your psoriasis under control.
- Make a work/revision plan. We know, this is what school/college tell you to do all the time, but that’s because it really does work! One of the quickest ways to start feeling tense and in over your head is knowing that you’ve got a load of work to do, but not being sure what’s got to be in by when or how long it’s going to take. Get a planner, write down all your deadlines and exam dates, and plan study sessions for the weeks ahead. Remember, you own your plan, so it can be flexible - if you think you need a bit more work in one area, whereas you’re feeling okay about another, adjust accordingly.
- Take breaks. The human brain can only handle so much information in one go, and without breaks you’re going to get tired and demotivated, which will send your stress levels soaring! Factor in small breaks, such as making a cup of tea, going for a ten minute walk or stopping for lunch, and larger breaks, such as an evening off with your friends.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
- Use your psoriasis treatment times to their full advantage. If you’re sitting around waiting for ointment to sink in, or doing a 30-minute dithranol treatment, why not do some reading or revision whilst you wait?
- If your psoriasis is really hampering your ability to work, you must tell somebody. If you feel stressed, anxious and unable to cope, visit your GP or Dermatologist. They should know about the effect this can have on psoriasis, and on a person’s quality of life, and there may be things they can do. Similarly, if psoriasis is hampering your physical ability to work - for example, if it’s on your hands and you find it very difficult to write - let your teachers know. There are special measures that can be taken for students requiring extra support in exams.
Moving out of home for the first time is a big deal; exciting and scary all at the same time, and there’s so much to remember.
If you have a long term condition, like psoriasis, there’s a whole other set of things to worry about. You might be receiving a course of treatment at your local hospital, or perhaps you rely on your parents to help you with applying your treatments or picking up prescriptions. Here are some tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible:
- Tell your GP, Dermatologist or Rheumatologist about your circumstances as soon as possible. Make sure they know where you’re moving to and when, and ask them about transferring your care to a surgery or hospital local to where you’ll be. If you’re not going too far, or are going to be visiting home regularly, you may choose not to move your care. However, be aware that if you register with a local GP (many unis send out registration forms in fresher packs), you may not be able to continue to receive psoriasis treatment at your hospital at home.
- Similarly, if you’re going home for the long break in the Summer (around three months), don’t forget to inform your GP or Dermatologist at uni. It may be that they are able to prescribe you more of your treatment, to get you through the break, or arrange for you to be seen by someone nearer to home.
- Use a phone app or wall planner to note down your appointments and repeat prescription dates. Use the same one you use to note down when your classes, club meetings, exams and deadlines are, to avoid clashes.
- If a family member helps you out with your psoriasis, talk to them and ask them what they do. For example, what washing powder do they use that doesn’t irritate your skin? How do they get treatment stains out of your clothes? How do they rinse the bath or shower out after you’ve used oil-based cleansers?
- Don't forget- If you are 16, 17 or 18 and still in full time education (ie. at college or uni), you get prescriptions for free; nice and easy on the student budget!
Most of all, enjoy it! Remember, everyone’s starting afresh and everyone feels nervous. If you can take the initiative to talk to someone first or introduce yourself, not only will you come across as confident and likeable, they’ll feel relieved that someone spoke to them!