Photo Credit: Allyson DeLorenzo
Allyson DeLorenzo is a 29-year-old research clinician in New York. She is pursuing a graduate degree in social work.
A Rough Start
It wasn’t an easy way to begin college. Allyson DeLorenzo was diagnosed with psoriasis when she was just 18 years old. “I had spots on my arms, my torso, legs, back, scalp, you name it,” she says. “I was living in a new environment, starting a new phase of my life and trying to manage psoriasis all at the same time. I became good at covering up and I would go out with friends, but I was never confident when it came to dating.”
That changed as DeLorenzo began to learn more about psoriasis and take control of her condition. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to use psoriasis as a litmus test for people, particularly for men,” she says. “I would present it to someone I was dating fairly early on and if there was any sort of adverse reaction, I generally would not go out with him on another date.” Now engaged to be married next year, she says that her psoriasis has never been an issue for her husband-to-be.
Finding What Works
Over the last 11 years, DeLorenzo has learned what usually causes her psoriasis flare-ups and how to minimize them. “I have flares about 3 or 4 times a year and my condition worsens when I’m stressed, like during final exams,” says DeLorenzo. “Making sure I exercise every day and doing yoga regularly keeps my stress level under control.”
Finding the best treatment has taken a while, but ultimately her perseverance has paid off. She now uses a topical vitamin D/steroid medication and she exposes her skin to narrowband UVB light therapy three times a week at her dermatologist’s office. “The light therapy is tedious,” says DeLorenzo. “It takes me longer to dress and undress than the three minutes or so I am exposed to the light, but it seems to be the most effective treatment for me.”
She has also learned to conquer some of the everyday challenges of psoriasis with a few simple strategies. Washing with alcohol-free, milk-based cleansers is much more soothing than soap. She wears light-colored clothing when the psoriasis on her scalp flares to camouflage flakes, and long-sleeve shirts to help hide breakouts on her arms. “In the winter, I put moisturizer all over my legs and wear hose underneath my pants and jeans to keep the moisture in and prevent the pants from rubbing against my skin,” she adds. “Bedding used to be a problem for me, but through trial and error, I have found that T-shirtlike jersey cotton sheets are the most comfortable for me to sleep on.”
The Best Help
The most important strategy of all has been teaming up with doctors who are experienced in treating psoriasis and who are willing to listen to what DeLorenzo wants and needs. “Everyone with psoriasis is different. What works for one person won’t work for another, and finding the best treatments takes time and patience,” she says. “Find a dermatologist that you love, who understands you and is willing to work with you to meet your particular needs.”
Once you choose your doctors, keep them in sync with each other. DeLorenzo always tells one doctor when the other prescribes a new medication. Some drugs can aggravate psoriasis and some psoriasis medications have side effects that your regular physician should be aware of. If you’re having a hard time coping with the emotional impact of your psoriasis, DeLorenzo suggests counseling. “There are therapists who specialize in working with people who have chronic illnesses such as psoriasis," she says. "Not only can they help you deal with the emotional side of psoriasis, they can help you manage your stress level which may make flare-ups less likely.”