Woman living with psoriasis: We should never hide away

Psoriasis, patient, health, suffer, skin condition, GetYourSkinOutPH/ GETY

Holly Dillon (left) tells our reporter about the impact psoriasis has had on her life

When Holly Dillon arrived at Faro airport for a flight home after her holiday with friends, she was feeling relaxed and happy. Yet everything changed when the 26-year-old freelance film director tried to check in.

The attendant asked her friend whether Holly had a “problem” with her skin.

Holly, who runs the online campaign #GetYourSkinOut and has lived with the chronic skin condition psoriasis since her teens, was furious.

“He actually stopped me,” she recalls of the incident in June this year. “I said, ‘excuse me, you should be asking me directly if you think something is wrong’. It was completely unacceptable, rude and unprofessional.”

Living with psoriasis is a full-time job- It’s a constant challenge

Holly Dillon

It might sound like a one-off, unfortunate episode but, as many of those living with psoriasis know, this is far from the case.

A recent Novartis survey on the impact of moderate to severe psoriasis has revealed the shocking emotional impact of the condition.

One of the most disturbing findings was that more than 80 per cent of people with psoriasis regularly experience humiliation and discrimination because of the appearance of their skin.

Hand with psoriasisGETTY

A hand with psoriasis

Around a third report being stared at and 41 per cent have been asked if they are contagious.

Some report being denied service in a hairdressers’, beauticians’ or shops and some had even been asked to leave public transport. For Holly, from Peckham, London, who has worked on films with Brad Pitt and The Wolf Of Wall Street star Jon Bernthal, it was one of a series of encounters that are all part of living with the disease. “I was 14 when I first noticed my psoriasis,” she says.

“It appeared under my chin and was the size of a five pence piece. I didn’t know what it was. I went to my GP and was given all the usual steroid creams and ointments. By the age of 18, 98 per cent of my body was covered with guttate psoriasis, which causes small sores all over the body.

“Because I wasn’t referred to a specialist dermatologist until then, I had overused the steroid creams so much that my skin, particularly on my back, was so thin it had started to lose pigmentation.

Psoriasis patient Holly DillonPH

Holly runs the online campaign #GetYourSkinOut

She adds: “Thankfully, once I was with a specialist dermatologist and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, I was given the correct advice and treatment I needed to learn more about the ways in which I can live with the condition.”

Psoriasis affects around 1.8 million people in the UK. It is often misunderstood and wrongly assumed to be contagious and “just a skin condition”.

It occurs when cells mature too quickly, leading to a build-up of excess immature cells on the surface of the skin. These appear as red, flaky, crusty and raised patches of skin covered with silvery scales. Other symptoms include itching, redness and chronic hardened or dry skin. Psoriasis sufferers are at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and arthritis.

It can also have a profound emotional impact and has been linked to an increased risk of suicide. Holly says: “Living with psoriasis is a full-time job. It’s a constant challenge.

It’s painful, upsetting, uncomfortable and at times prevents you from doing normal things such as swimming, getting your hair cut, buying a little black dress, dating or going to work. It affects everything you do, it can feel as if there is no escape.” She has tried many treatments over the years.

Psoriasis handGETTY

Psoriasis affects around 1.8 million people in the UK

“I’ve tried the drugs, creams, ointments, the weird and wonderful homemade concoctions and devices,” she explains. “But the best treatment for me has always been a form of light treatment.

For some reason, my pale Irish skin loves the artificial sunshine. I’ve recently finished PUVA (ultraviolet) treatment and within a few sessions my skin is clear, although months after stopping, it returns.” During her recent treatment she started the online campaign #GetYourSkinOut to encourage those living with psoriasis to talk about and post pictures of their skin condition.

Within months she has picked up 3,000 Instagram followers and reached thousands of fellow sufferers around the world. “One of the biggest challenges is to accept your skin and the mental and physical challenges that come with it,” Holly explains.

“I have spent the last year saying ‘yes’ to every single thing that would make me uncomfortable: showing my skin, talking about it. It has allowed me to connect with incredible people who have taught and inspired me to be strong.”

She adds: “We need to bridge the gap between GPs, dermatologists and patients. Psoriasis can be difficult to live with but we should never hide away. Get the help you need and do not let it define you.”

For info visit getyourskinout.com or search #GetYourSkinOut