Father’s Day: Growing Up with My Father’s Psoriasis
Dr Peter Ch’ng lives in Malaysia, and is a practicing dermatologist at Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur. He found his calling because his father’s condition made him realise that psoriasis is not just a skin-deep problem.
A Son’s Point of View
I first noticed that my father’s skin was different when I was five years old. He had flaky skin mainly around his elbows, his legs, and sometimes even on his chest. No one else had skin like this. It felt rough; sometimes there was cracking and bleeding.
On hot Malaysian days, my father wore long sleeves and pants to cover his skin. As time passed, I got de-sensitised to seeing him this way. His skin did not bother me except when he left trails of dead skin behind, especially on sofas or car seats.
I didn’t know what he had was psoriasis until much later. My parents informed me that it was a skin condition. I remember feeling sad when my father was admitted to the hospital several times; my mom had to take care of us kids and brought us to visit with him often.
Living with My Father’s Treatments
My father was on several medications, mainly creams and ointments. He had to apply ointment all over affected skin areas, which were quite large. Then he would sleep in a separate room because the ointment smelled and stained all beddings and pillows he slept on.
The worst experience was when he had to apply coal tar all over his body. The stench was so powerful it filled the entire house; there was no escaping black and viscous stains everywhere. My father had to leave the coal tar on for two hours, and he would lie down wrapped in a man’s sarong to try to keep the sheets clean1.
My Father, My Inspiration
My father inspired me to be a dermatologist. Gasding up side-by-side with his trials and tribulations, I often wished I could do something more to help. I felt strongly that there should have been the right treatment to cure or treat this disease.
I learned the hard way that psoriasis is more than just a skin disease. It comes with other co-morbidities, such as higher cardiovascular risk and higher mortality. In addition, there is a genetic element to psoriasis: a third of patients have a family member with the disease2.
Knowing that I could develop psoriasis like my father, I am mentally prepared for it. I am just glad that I was born into a time when effective treatments to control psoriasis are readily-available. It is my utmost desire to see psoriasis become a thing of the past, so that no one should suffer because of it.
A Dermatologist’s Message for Father’s Day
As a son of a psoriasis sufferer, and a Dermatologist, I would like to give all psoriasis patients and their families and friends the following message:
- Be supportive! Psoriasis is not a contagious condition. You can share the same pool, eat on the same table, and shake hands with a psoriasis patient. 35% of psoriasis sufferers had been discriminated on at work, refused services, and asked to leave commercial premises3.
- Be mindful! Psoriasis sufferers face constant stares and judgements from people who do not understand the disease. 88% of psoriasis patients feel self-conscious or ashamed when they’re being active4! Be courteous and be kind; they just want to be treated like everyone else.
- Be thankful! Always appreciate what you have, instead of taking things for granted. Psoriasis affects people of all
backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and ages. Always seek
professional help if you notice any changes to your skin.
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If you enjoyed this article, read Biologic Treatment for Psoriasis: 4 Things You Need to Know
1 Note: The use of coal tar is declining as newer and more effective treatments become available. However, improved formulations of coal tar which are more user-friendly can be found.