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Flake News

PeelingThe problem with flakes.

One of the more embarrassing aspects of psoriasis is the fact that everywhere you go, and whatever you touch, you tend to leave parts of yourself behind. Some days are better than others of course, but on the bad days, I find myself leaving a track of discarded psoriasis scales in my wake wherever I go.

I could well imagine that this characteristic may one day turn out to be enormously helpful if ever I get lost in the Amazon rainforest or something; as I could probably find my way back to civilisation and safety by retracing my flake-trail. Sadly however, in normal day to life, this special skill is less useful.

I have mentioned before that I am not overly concerned about my personal image. But, whilst the appearance of my flaky skin is one thing, leaving some of it behind for others to find is quite another. I have no doubt at all that no matter how accepting people may be about my condition – they must find this rather disgusting. I can fully understand that sentiment.

A huge organ

Our skin is the largest organ in (or should that be ‘on’) the human body. They say it grows and regenerates fast enough to renew the entire top layer every few weeks. I have always found this hard to believe, but it’s a proven fact so I can’t question it. And as the skin grows and replenishes itself, so old layers are shed. This means that everyone, regardless of any medical condition, is shedding particles all over the place. ‘They’ also say that a certain percentage of household dust is slouched off skin particles.

So – if everyone else in the world is doing it, why should I worry about doing it, too?

big-and-smallBigger is not always better

The simple answer is that psoriasis scales are just, well; bigger – and therefore much more noticeable.

I have rarely found relief from this with the use of topical treatments. Even though these moisturize the skin and make it more comfortable, they do tend to have the unwanted side effect of making the flakes even bigger. Much, much bigger, in fact.

I have often laughed at myself when I peel off individual strips of scale the size of postage stamps: I do find this strangely satisfying, and the fresh new skin beneath is really nice – at least for a little while.

For two millennia, the human race has used prepared animal hide (parchment) instead of paper, and I have sometimes wondered if could write a book about psoriasis printed entirely on my own moulted skin. Then I realize that this would be utterly repulsive and forget about the idea. But I truly believe that over the years I have peeled off enough bits of myself to republish War and Peace.

brushBrush it off

As it is – I spend most of my day brushing myself down surreptitiously when I realise that I just rested my elbows on my legs, or absentmindedly scratched my head. And when I get up to go elsewhere, I do often look back at where I have just been with a pang of guilt, wishing that I had some kind of miniature vacuum cleaner with me so that I could tidy up after myself properly. I also take great pains not to accidentally brush past other people, for fear dusting their finery with my powdered epidermis.

Ultimately, short of sealing myself up entirely in a plastic bag, there is little to be done to prevent any of this from happening.

I have to content myself by being as neat and tidy as possible, trying very hard to resist the urge to scratch, and trusting in the knowledge that in the far future, when the human race develops the technology to grow fully formed adult clones, there is a far higher probability of someone finding my discarded DNA samples and bringing me back to life.

Nigel Beckett

17th August 2018



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