Psoriasis Insights

It Took Months—and All of My Patience—to Get My Psoriasis Diagnosed

An arsenal of cosmetics helped Liz Salemme, 24, of Riverdale, N.J., keep her psoriasis covered up. But it took months to get a correct diagnosis and the right treatment, and all that stress just made her skin condition worse

When Liz finally got a correct diagnosis, the treatment cleared her psoriasis.
When I'd get a bad acne breakout in my teens, I'd joke that my skin was taking over my life. Little did I know that a few years later, it would actually come close to doing just that.

In 2002 I left home to start my freshman year at college. On Halloween, I came down with strep throat. I didn't want to spend the weekend cooped up in my dorm room, so I went out anyway.

A few days later, I woke up with dry spots all over the undersides of my forearms. They were pretty small—I thought it was dry skin or something strange I'd picked up in the communal showers. I put lotion on it and figured it would go away. But it didn't. The nurse practitioner at campus services told me I was probably allergic to something—my detergent, or maybe the water in the washing machines.

Soon it spread to my upper arms, chest, and back. I thought it was acne, but pimple medication made it much worse. Every morning I'd wake up, hoping it would have disappeared overnight. But it was always worse. I confided in my friends about how upset it was making me. They told me it didn't look that bad, but I knew they were just being nice.

I was misdiagnosed with a flesh-eating bacteria
When I went home for Thanksgiving, my parents panicked—that's how bad I looked. My mother took me straight to a doctor, who said I had a flesh-eating bacteria. She explained that I could have contracted it when I drank alcohol while sick with strep. She mentioned the word psoriasis in passing, but I was so fixated on the flesh-eating bacteria that I didn't second-guess her diagnosis. It did look like something was attacking my face.

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I went back to finish the semester with a prescription for cortisone cream and an antibiotic. But two weeks later, nothing had changed. No matter what I did, it just kept getting worse. I'd slather thick lotion all over my body every night, and that helped to a degree. In the morning I'd spend 30 minutes in front of the bathroom mirror, covering my face with foundation.

I never used to wear a lot of makeup, and now I was having to set my alarm extra early so I could cover myself up before I left for class. I was constantly paranoid that my classmates were staring at me, so all of the stress from that—on top of my academic worries like final exams—was taking its toll. And the more stressed I got, the worse my skin became.

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As told to: Kate Stinchfield
Last Updated: October 01, 2008

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