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Giving Voice to Psoriasis: Junior’s Story
- By Regina Boyle Wheeler
- Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD
Junior Reynolds spent years hiding his psoriasis until he decided to take back his life. Now he works to raise psoriasis awareness so others won’t suffer in silence.
Junior Reynolds, 27, is one of about 7.5 million Americans living with psoriasis . After trying to hide his skin condition and suffering in silence for years, Reynolds now gives people with psoriasis a voice. He’s an active volunteer with the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), helping to raise psoriasis awareness and educate others about the disease.
Reynolds, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, developed psoriasis symptoms as a child. “I was around 8 or 9 years old when I first started to get random, out-of-the-blue psoriasis plaques,” he says. The half-dollar-sized spots would pop up primarily on his legs and disappeared as quickly as they appeared. The doctors in the small town where Reynolds grew up were baffled by his skin condition. Perhaps it was ringworm , they said.
When Reynolds was 21, the outbreaks became more aggressive and widespread. That’s when the disease progressed from part-time to full-time, he says. A dermatologist in Columbus finally got the diagnosis right: Reynolds had psoriasis.
From Isolated Psoriasis Victim to Outspoken Activist
During college, Reynolds’s goal was to keep his psoriasis a secret. “If an outbreak of plaques happened on my legs, then I wore pants, even during a heat wave. If the flare-up was on my torso or back, then I wouldn’t play sports or go anywhere near a pool.” He became very withdrawn. “Some days, especially when the symptoms were particularly bad, I would feel completely isolated, which triggered an antisocial attitude. It ruined my confidence and self-esteem, which only caused me to withdraw inward more and more — a psoriatic tailspin, so to speak,” he says.
Eventually, Reynolds was sick of living life in the shadows of his psoriasis. He decided to try to make the best of a situation he couldn’t change. “Once I had a handle on coping with psoriasis, I decided to use my experiences to help others,” he says. The best way to raise psoriasis awareness is to openly discuss psoriatic disease instead of shying away from it or changing the subject, he says.
“I’ve really tried to work with the NPF in any way I can, whether it’s mentoring, working with the editorial board of Psoriasis Advance, the magazine of the NPF, or being a part of their blogger program — every little bit of psoriasis advocacy helps support our cause,” Reynolds says.
“For me, volunteering was a great way of destroying walls I had placed around myself,” he says. “Even as a mentor, your dialogue can really shine new light on yourself while helping someone else cope.”
Fighting Misconceptions About Psoriasis
Reynolds says if someone stares or says something to him about his psoriasis, he instantly shifts into educator mode. “I realize that, as someone with the condition, I’m an advocate, instructor, promoter, myth-buster, campaign manager, and disease specialist all in one.”
Misconceptions about psoriasis are common. One popular misunderstanding is the belief that you can catch it. “Psoriasis is an inherited disease and therefore it’s not contagious. It can’t be caught from sharing towels, using the same dishes, shaking hands, or other forms of bodily contact,” says Abby Van Voorhees, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and the director of the Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and chair of the National Psoriasis Foundation Medical Board. “It’s also not caused by poor hygiene.”
Another misconception is that psoriasis is just a cosmetic problem. Psoriasis stems from a misfire in the immune system and can cause other health problems. “This disease can involve internal organs and can be associated with arthritis,” Dr. Van Voorhees says. People with psoriasis are at a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and psoriatic arthritis.
Reynolds knows this first hand. He now also has psoriatic arthritis, which affects about 30 percent of people with psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic disease that occurs as a complication of psoriasis marked by inflammation of the joints that causes pain, stiffness, and restricted motion.
Reynolds has this advice for people who are managing psoriasis: “The burdens of psoriatic life are tremendous, but it’s no reason to give up the desire to live well, be happy, and have a productive and quality life,” he says. “It can take years to learn to cope, and even then, you will still have your bad days. Vow to make the most of each day, and live life unconquered.”
Last Updated: 6/20/2014
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