My freshman year of high school, I began to get strange, red spots on my body. They initially developed on my arms, but within a couple of days, they had spread to my chest, legs, and even my scalp, despite extensive at-home treatment consisting of lotions, cotton clothing, and oatmeal baths. Within weeks, the unknown rash had spread all over my entire body, and I had finally scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician.
He diagnosed the condition has either eczema or pityriasis rosea and told me that I just needed to wait it out. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and my rash had not cleared in the slightest, and if anything, it had only gotten worse.
Finally, I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist, who to my surprise, diagnosed my disease as guttate psoriasis after a clinical examination of my teardrop-shaped spots and after she learned about my recent case of strep throat.
Much to my dismay, she confessed that there was no cure for my condition, but there were treatment options available, either to treat the rash externally as a skin condition, or internally, as an autoimmune disease. Because the internal medications have more serious side effects, I chose a treatment plan with two corticosteroid creams coupled with a futuristic-sounding treatment called phototherapy.
I didn’t know anything about phototherapy at the time, but my dermatologist described it as “specialized tanning.” It works by using a specific concentration of ultraviolet rays to calm down the psoriasis spots and slow down the cell turnover process. I was prescribed phototherapy three times per week, for three months.
I vividly remember my first phototherapy session. I walked in to a room with three capsules that looked like strange alien spaceships. I wish there was a mirror in that room because I am sure that I also looked like an alien myself, butt-naked with lizard skin, in my black goggles that the attendant gave me to protect my eyes.
I entered into the alien spaceship, it powered up, and a blue hue of ultraviolet rays zapped my skin for a grand total of 20 seconds.
Needless to say, it was a very anticlimactic experience, and no, the phototherapy booth did not take off into space.
Despite my skepticism, I kept coming back to the phototherapy room per my dermatologist’s prescription, and as the time of the sessions increased, the appearance of my psoriasis spots greatly improved.
By the end of the sessions, they had reduced to light brown scars, and I was two shades tanner with tan lines from the goggles.
If you are someone suffering from guttate psoriasis, I urge you to be open to the idea of phototherapy. It gave me remission for five years (and a nice tan).