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Living With Psoriasis: Managing Flare-ups and Embracing Life

Posted on June 09, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Mandy Armitage, M.D.
Article written by
Andrea Tortora

Diagnosed with psoriasis in 2010, Vanessa Scott has learned to manage her condition and overcome stigma. Now she and her family work to educate others about autoimmune conditions. (Vanessa Scott)

  • Vanessa Scott’s psoriasis diagnosis taught her to manage her physical and mental health.
  • She knows how her body works and makes self-care a priority.
  • She now educates family and friends about psoriasis.

Vanessa Scott’s message for anyone with psoriasis is this: Stay encouraged; this is the beginning of something better.

“You will go through a lot,” she said. “Love yourself. Remember that you have psoriasis, psoriasis doesn’t have you.”

Scott’s journey with psoriasis began in 2010, just two years after she was diagnosed with idiopathic transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord).

Now 43, this retired mother of two and grandmother from Pine Mountain, Georgia, embraces positivity. Scott shares strategies at family gatherings and on MyPsoriasisTeam, a free social network for people diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, where she also finds support.

Wrestling with the ups and downs of an autoimmune disorder taught Scott how to manage her physical and mental health.

Treatment Trial and Error

In 2010, Scott noticed itchy spots on her scalp. She thought it was eczema, which runs in her family. When she used lotions, her skin cleared up. But the patches returned a few months later, covering much of her body. And some developed into sores.

While in the hospital for gallbladder surgery, Scott underwent a skin biopsy and other tests. Doctors diagnosed her with psoriasis and started treatment with skin ointments. Her skin plaques peeled off in large sheets.

“I was embarrassed. I cried. I was depressed,” Scott said.

She started taking the biologic medication adalimumab (Humira), as well as methotrexate (Trexall). The combination saved her skin, she recalled.

In 2013, Scott’s hands started cramping, and she began having joint pain. She saw a rheumatologist, who diagnosed her with psoriatic arthritis.

As she learned to manage the joint inflammation, Scott’s psoriasis went into “slumber mode.” But, in 2015, her body stopped responding to Humira, and a new dermatologist changed her treatment.

In May 2015, Scott became sick with a high fever. She spent a week in the hospital with sepsis, an extreme reaction to infection that can be life-threatening. Doctors stopped biologic treatments and instead used strong antibiotics and steroids to beat the infection and heal Scott’s skin.

“It scared me, but my doctor said different treatments cool off psoriasis for different people,” she said.

Scott switched to a new dermatologist, whom she still sees today. They’ve developed a strong relationship. For two years, they avoided biologics and successfully treated her psoriasis with ointments and topical Enstilar foam (made with calcipotriene and betamethasone dipropionate).

A Bad Flare in 2017

Scott was hit by a severe flare-up in 2017. “Nearly 100 percent of my body was covered in plaques,” Scott said. “My head, my face, my eyelids, my lips, and my ears. I had no hair.”

In 2017, plaques spread inside her mouth and ears, affecting her hearing. They covered her armpits, the palms of her hands, and the soles of her feet, damaging sweat glands. She was in pain and shed lots of skin.

Scott’s dermatologist wanted to start her on a new medication. Tests showed Scott’s kidney and liver function were normal, so her dermatologist prescribed the biologic treatment risankizumab-rzza (sold under the brand name Skyrizi). The new biologic stopped Scott’s itching in two weeks, and her plaques began to heal. After six weeks, her skin looked and felt better. After six months, her hair grew back. Her skin was clear.

“I changed my diet, too. No acidic drinks or foods. I learned my triggers,” Scott said.

Battling Depression

Finding the right care was just one obstacle Scott faced. Her appearance impacted her job. Health care costs mounted. She became depressed.

Extended family and some friends shunned her, and she was embarrassed by her skin. “Kids and old people were brutally honest,” she said.

Now, to fight depression, Scott:

  • Starts each day with deep breathing, stretching, and giving thanks
  • Focuses on the positives
  • Talks often to others living with psoriasis and depression

“I encourage people to keep their mental health strong,” Scott said. But she knows it isn’t always easy.

Her mental health “completely broke down” in 2019. Her husband had a brain tumor. She got an upper respiratory infection and had to stop taking her psoriasis medications. When her plaques returned, people started staring. So she stayed in her bedroom.

“I let this disease take control. I lost faith in myself,” Scott said. “I was at a point where I couldn’t be me.”

She needed support.

She found MyHealthTeam online and joined MyPsoriasisTeam. “It saved me in so many ways,” Scott said.

As she talked with others on the site, she felt better. She met people living with all types of psoriasis situations. Her team checked on her often, bringing “pure positivity” into her life.

“My emotions got better. My stress got better. The flare-up got better,” Scott said. “I found people who went from being team members to friends to actual loved ones.”

Financial Survival Mode

Before they retired, Scott’s husband Terrell was a truck driver, and she worked at a funeral home. After she started having symptoms of psoriasis, she stayed out of sight to avoid upsetting clients when her plaques were visible.

“When I looked like a blistered lizard, it affected my money, my relationships, my emotions, and my finances,” Scott said.

The search for the right care was expensive. The Scotts paid out of pocket for treatments. Some ointments cost $200 for a travel-size tube. And they lost income when they couldn’t work.

“We went into survival mode,” Scott said, explaining how they managed the financial strain. “We used savings cards, anything to knock the cost down.” She found discounts through GoodRx and with store coupons.

Avoiding Gatherings and Stigma

Psoriasis kept Scott from what she loves. She’s the youngest of 17 children, and big family gatherings at home in Pine Mountain are a staple. She skipped barbecues, bonfires, weekend movies at the drive-in, and fish fries.

“I love the clean air, good living, and good food,” Scott said. “But, back then, I turned down invitations.”

Her immediate family didn’t care how she looked. But Scott said she felt shunned by some extended family, friends, and strangers.

She remembers one encounter, in particular. She was wearing a wig to hide a large plaque on her face. When the wind blew her hair, the scales were visible.

“A woman moved away from me and started whispering,” Scott said.

Scott met the woman again later. This time, Scott’s skin was clear, but the woman had psoriasis plaques. They talked, and Scott shared her dermatologist’s number.

“I believe just because you ‘get ugly,’ doesn’t mean you give it back,” Scott said.

In 2020, Scott and her family members with autoimmune and skin conditions — eczema, lupus, psoriasis, and burns — invited people to an educational cookout.

“We decided it was time to tell what we go through,” Scott said. They shared slides and explained their conditions, including the causes and their strategies for health.

Scott said people apologized for their ignorance: “Now they have an awareness and understanding.”

The educational cookouts are ongoing. They talk about the research that’s being done on the genetic and environmental risks for autoimmune and skin conditions. They also focus on other family health concerns, like heart health.

Love the Skin You’re In

When Scott feels bad, she indulges in comfort: cozy house shoes, a warm robe, homemade goat-milk-and-honey soap. “Don’t miss out on living,” she said.

Scott shared these tips for people living with psoriasis:

  • Ask lots of questions; don’t be embarrassed.
  • Avoid home remedies.
  • Avoid using heavy makeup.
  • Be proactive about your skin. Check moles, and watch for other changes.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Listen to your doctor.
  • Moisturize generously. (She recommends Eucerin, Nivea, or Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Moisturizing Body Oil.)
  • Try natural ingredients, like aloe vera.
  • Use different moisturizers: light lotions in summer and oils and gels in winter.
  • Use sunscreen, even if your skin is dark.
  • When you’re outside, wear a hat and loose sleeves if the sun irritates your psoriasis.

Scott also has tips specifically for bathing:

  • Use warm, not hot, water.
  • Try soothing oatmeal bath soaks.
  • When you’re finished, pat your skin dry and moisturize immediately.

Prioritize self-care, Scott recommended. That includes searching for the right treatment. Living with psoriasis means keeping it under control.

“I’m not ashamed anymore,” Scott said. “I don’t care about the stigma. I found treatments that work for me.”

Vanessa Scott told her story as part of a partnership between GoodRx Health and MyHealthTeam, which creates social networks for people living with chronic conditions. MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people diagnosed with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Members share their firsthand experiences, practical tips, and emotional support in a secure online community. Medical experts and specialists share trusted information via articles, videos, and virtual events.

GoodRx believes sharing your health journey can educate and inspire others. Want to tell your story? Follow these steps to share yours.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Mandy Armitage, M.D. is the medical director of editorial services at GoodRx Health. Learn more about her here.
Andrea Tortora Andrea has more than 25 years of experience as a journalist for print, online, and social media. Learn more about her here.

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