August 1st, 2016
By Howard H. Chang
It’s hard for a child to even begin to fathom the impact that being diagnosed with a chronic illness might have on him over the course of a lifetime. When I was diagnosed with psoriasis at eight years old, I only understood that life as I knew it had changed—and not for the better.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. And according to the National Psoriasis Foundation, it affects about 125 million worldwide.
Although it is not contagious, psoriasis can be associated with a host of other health conditions, including depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis and diabetes, among others.
Saturday cartoons and superhero action figures filled my life until psoriasis treatments took over. I hated the messy topical treatments—like awful-smelling coal tar—that I had to put on before bed. I also had to get phototherapy treatments three times a week, which required standing in a booth to expose the psoriatic skin to a dose of ultraviolet light—not exactly the way an elementary school boy wanted to spend his time.
Suffering Alone and in Silence
Psoriasis is a stigmatizing condition. On top of the physical symptoms and potential comorbidities, I faced all kinds of social rejection due to the red, flaky, inflamed, disfigured skin that covered my body.