"Do Whatever Exercise You Can Do"
Mark M. makes it his mission to hike the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains near his home of Sacramento. A fitness enthusiast, the 51-year-old medical sales representative also enjoys mountain climbing, bike riding and going to the gym several days a week.
Today, thanks to the help of a new treatment, he's able to do it all while living with severe guttate psoriasis. He's had the disease for more than 25 years, along with psoriatic arthritis for the last five. There were times when 75% of his body was covered by psoriasis, including his scalp, back, legs, elbows and knees. Mark also suffers from joint damage to his spine due to the arthritis.
"I was so self-conscious about it," says Mark. "Once, some kids asked me what happened to my legs and I said I wrecked my bike because that was easier to say than the truth," he recalls.
For Mark, developing and sticking to healthy habits, such as getting regular exercise and sleep, has been the key to living a joyful and energetic life with psoriasis. When it comes time to exercise, he says, "I just put on a pair of sweatpants and go to the gym. I've benefited from never stopping my activities even when I was uncomfortable."
Like most people who have psoriasis, Mark's tried his fair share of treatments, including tar shampoos, steroidal creams and scalp injections. All worked to a certain degree, he says, but over time the psoriasis would eventually come back.
It wasn't until he began taking a biologic medication—at the suggestion of his rheumatologist—that the psoriasis began to clear. Biologic drugs treat psoriasis by reducing inflammation and slowing skin cell production.
For the last two years, Mark has taken the same biologic medication through self-injection every other week. It also helps stop damage to the joints caused by the arthritis. As a result, Mark says his skin is 98% clear and his joints feel better. "If I wasn't on a biologic right now, I probably would not be able to do as much," he says.
Mark also says it's also important to tell your doctor everything about the psoriasis, even when the symptoms seem unrelated. "Doctors are looking at it as more than just a skin condition. We are now learning that with psoriasis comes a higher risk for many other conditions like depression and anxiety, as well as heart disease and diabetes," he says, noting that his doctor encouraged him to share the emotional feelings he was experiencing due to having a chronic illness. "My dermatologist and I talk about it," says Mark. "I got to the point where I would come in and she would give me a hug."
Based on his life experience, Mark offers the following advice for people living with psoriasis:
- Exercise, exercise, exercise!
- Reduce physical stress by getting eight hours of sleep each night.
- Share with your doctor any emotions you are feeling because of psoriasis.
- Tell your doctor about all of your symptoms, even the odd ones.
- Join the National Psoriasis Foundation support group on Facebook or find a local psoriasis support group that can help you deal with your condition.
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