Krista Kellogg knew what she had before she was even diagnosed. Growing up, she watched her mother suffer with psoriasis, so when her own hands and feet developed the telltale thickened skin, sore cracks, cuts and fissures, she knew she was in for a long battle. Diagnosed with palmoplantar psoriasis at age 27, she has spent the last seven years facing sometimes crushing pain, and the sometimes cruel reactions of others.
“Psoriasis is a lonely disease,” says Kellogg, who is the director of marketing for a law firm in Miami. “Most people think psoriasis is a minor skin irritation, but it’s not. When my hands are broken out and I need to interact with clients and colleagues, it’s very difficult to shake hands. I’ve had people recoil from my hands. I’ve had salon manicurists refuse to service me because they think that it’s contagious.”
Everyday activities that most people take for granted become challenges for people who have psoriasis, especially if it’s severe. Taking a shower, for example, can make Kellogg wince when soap, shampoo and even water enters the painful cracks in her skin. “When I’m in a bad flare, walking becomes a big issue,” says Kellogg. “If I have an appointment, I will think, ‘How will I get from my car to my office? What shoes can I wear?’” Because her feet can swell as much as one and a half sizes during flares, Kellogg owns a collection of shoes in different sizes.
Intimacy can also be challenging. “When my hands are cracked and bleeding, it’s very difficult to be touching and hugging,” she says. “My husband is a gem, but at times our relationship has suffered.”
Like many people who have severe psoriasis, Kellogg has struggled to find a treatment that works without side effects. She has tried various medications with mixed success. Now, at 34, with hopes of starting a family soon, Kellogg is treating her psoriasis with pregnancy-safe options like soothing ointments and at-home light therapy three times a week. She’s also learned unique coping strategies that provide relief when she’s in a bad flare. “My husband wraps my feet in washcloths that have been soaked in ice water, which is incredibly soothing,” says Kellogg. “I keep bananas in the freezer because holding on to them can bring relief when my hands are burning in pain. I’ve also learned that I can’t push myself. If I’m having a flare, it’s okay to say no to a social engagement if I’m not feeling up to it.”
Helping Others Helps Her
Another coping strategy that works for Kellogg is learning as much as she can about psoriasis and educating others. She explains that the disease is genetic, it is not contagious and it presents unique challenges. Now on the board of trustees for the National Psoriasis Foundation, Kellogg has become an advocate for people with psoriasis and has found that sharing her experiences with others who have the condition makes her feel better. “My advice to anyone with psoriasis is to find a doctor experienced in treating the disease and to educate yourself about the condition,” says Kellogg. “You will have a better chance of finding a treatment that works for you, and you will feel more empowered… and less alone.”