Living with Psoriasis – March 2019

Living with Psoriasis – March 2019

Few who read this will know I have psoriasis yet I spent 37 years in the military with it. I have been hospitalised three times for several weeks at a time when they had a Skin Ward at Raigmore Hospital near Inverness in the early 70s. Those days it was a very basic treatment you were covered in tar products. It was very hard and upsetting for a young guy. The RAF Doctors had very little clue how to deal with it and many treatments and ointments made the raw skin a lot worse. Nowadays the military may not let you in with it!

The initial signs for me were a red skin rash on my head, legs, arms and trunk that got worse and worse. Soon about 40% of my body was covered. I was very active at this time with the RAF Mountain Rescue and playing football and other sports. The rash got raw after a day of heavy physical activity and actually bled with the constant rubbing of clothes. It was so painful and few knew what the rubbing after a 12 hour hill day did to your skin. It became pretty obvious and I got a few cutting comments – did I have “Scabies”? “Is it contagious?” These hurt at the time and even 40 years on its hard explaining to folk

Eventually I was sent to Raigmore Hospital for three weeks of constant treatment with tar products, which ruined any clothes you had. The nurses were great and they had to administer some of the tar-based creams, it was a hard job but seeing many others a lot worse than me made me accepts it was life.

There were increased bouts of it and it was always worse after a winter and meant that there were few summers I could wear shorts and light clothing. I was very embarrassed about my skin and my appearance and the best way for me to cope was to cover it up, not easy in the hot weather. Sun can be a great help with the disease and wearing clothes made you sweat – it became a long battle every year.

Treatment of my condition was very hard trying to get somewhere private to apply creams, especially when away most weekends with the RAF Mountain Rescue in village halls or tents with limited showering facilities or privacy. Most of the team accepted it and I got used to educating them about my condition.

Psoriasis can be hereditary but no one in my family had it, but I have worked out that it can be affected by stress, and one thing for me is trauma. This was especially after an upsetting Air crash or an upsetting Mountain Rescue Call Out. Also if I get an illness or I am sick then it can explode and the process begins again. I found especially if I get a sore throat my skin can break out.

I was very lucky as all my girlfriends accepted psoriasis was part of my life but it did put a strain on relationships and even holidays by the sea were dependent on the state of my skin. I was posted to the Persian Gulf in 1974 for 9 months and the sun definitely helped and it was one of the few times I was free of psoriasis in my life. It was hard at first as I arrived with the condition fairly flared up and you cannot hide it when wearing shorts. Eventually people accepted it and the sun did work and cleared my skin.

I have had most treatments in my life, even taking part in early light treatment in Dundee which made you very susceptible to light as you were given a tablet before treatment. This made you very affected by the sun for 24 hours, not easy if I had a Mountain Rescue Call out after treatment. I have tried all types of creams but the light treatment nowadays is very effective if time-consuming. It is very hard to get a place and this treatment takes several months usually going three times a week and building up from a few seconds to minutes, all controlled by the wonderful nurses. Treatment has become better but the waiting list is long for the UV treatment.

Today I have the time to look after my skin a bit better, keep the areas moisturised and treating the areas as they occur with modern creams. Unfortunately some include steroids and must be used sparingly. I find alcohol does not help, and eating well and getting some sun after a long winter always helps.

It is not life threatening but can make life hard for many, after 40 years I can cope and if you or a relative have psoriasis maybe this will help? I have it every year but it is great when it clears and you can go about in shorts, swim again and wear light clothes These are simple things but such a great feeling. I can go swimming with my Grandkids again if I want to.

The local Dermatology staff in my Elgin hospital – their care is superb but their facilities are so limited to one phototherapy machine for so many. Gone are the days of Skin wards but they are so good with the limited facilities they have, we could achieve much more with better funding. But who seems to care or understand and who do I contact to put my worries forward on the limited facilities?

My advice is do not be afraid to talk about it to friends. Most are fine about it and many have this condition. Get professional help, see a dermatologist when you can and hopefully one day there may be a solution to this awful disease.

I had been asked to help with an NHS video a few years ago about psoriasis from my friends in the Dermatology Department at Doctor Gray’s hospital in Elgin. I have been unfortunate to have had this awful skin disease since I was 17 and I am 66 now. It can be a terrible and fairly unknown disease that the general public know little about. I was going to do a piece on my blog about it to try to spread the word, this video has hastened it and it may help others.

Too many psoriasis is a disease that few know about or understand and can be a huge blow especially for a young person. It is a hugely embarrassing thing with your skin looking terrible and red raw at times, it affects your whole life.

I have had to live with it and as I write that it has broken out again and I am in the middle of treatment, it’s a long process nut so worth it. Thanks to all who help us, especially the Dermatology Department at Doctor Gray’s in Elgin who are superb.

David Whalley MBE.BEM

Please use as you see fit. Comments welcome

From the NHS website

“Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back, but can appear anywhere on your body. Most people are only affected with small patches. In some cases, the patches can be itchy or sore.

Psoriasis affects around 2% of people in the UK. It can start at any age but most often develops in adults under 35 years old, and affects men and women equally.

The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some it’s just a minor irritation but, for others, it can majorly affect their quality of life.

Psoriasis is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that usually involves periods when you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by periods when symptoms are more severe.”

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Aircraft incidents, Articles, medical, People. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Living with Psoriasis – March 2019

  1. Reg Stuart says:

    Been all the places you have & 6 weeks for a number of years Inverness. Try best keep moisturise. Sunburn on the hills on shoulder. Started seeping, next day as Part time fireman at 18 took my first body out of car, there it started small at first then spread over years. Trauma ? Stress as you know with me, probably. But so so many have it & cover it up – excuse the pun ! But sun helps.


    • I am glad you mention the Trauma with it I am trying to get them to appreciate what effect this has. I must catch up Reg, still got this cough so no bike or hills.
      Take care and thanks for your honesty it does help others.

      Your mate Heavy


  2. says:

    Hi Dave

    Interesting topic in today’s blog. Fortunately I don’t suffer from Psoriasis but my father suffered terribly from it. On his scalp legs arms etc. fiery red , itchy and a source of embarrassment to him. Like yourself he had all sorts of tar products prescribed often with limited success. He also found that holidays in the sun and swimming in the sea would improve his condition. Stress most certainly made his condition worse

    Latterly he took to taking REDOXON vitamin tablets which he got in Boots and these seemed to have more effect than many of the creams.

    On one occasion when he was at the house and Alastair McGregor (SMC), who was still a GP at the time dropped in, and he told Al about the Improvement he was having taking these pills and Alastair’s response was along the lines of “I don’t know why they’re helping but keep taking them anyway!”

    So we don’t know why, but in his case it most certainly did help.

    Reading your blog today reminded me of that conversation and thought you may be interested

    Best regards



  3. Dawn says:

    I feel you. I suffered from it for years too and now that I am free from it, I recently posted one of the products I used that helped me with my psoriasis. Feel free to check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Chris Upson says:

    Dave, Psoriasis is a lifelong burden. Your story is familiar to me. Aged 7, I was abandoned in Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle for 5 months, living in pyjamas, and with no access to the outdoors. The daily ritual was getting smeared all over with coal tar that had no beneficial effect. I only got my skin cleared for the first time when I went to the Dead Sea for a month in 1982. I felt like a different person with clear skin, but it doesn’t last. As you say, stress, alcohol and throat infections can all bring about a sudden deterioration when you least need it. Thank you for writing about your own experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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