Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that increases how fast your skin cells grow and can cause itchy, flaky skin patches.
Voos sat down with Healthline to share her journey with psoriasis.
Sometimes, psoriasis can seem to come out of nowhere, but there are often triggers that cause the condition to flare up. Voos’ psoriasis journey started shortly after she began college.
“Learning a little bit more about psoriasis and how sometimes stress can affect it, I definitely blame college,” Voos said. “Although that’s not where I got psoriasis, it is probably what inspired my psoriasis to go full rampage.”
Psoriasis frequently begins with skin symptoms, but Voos mentioned that joint inflammation from psoriatic arthritis was what led to her diagnosis, saying, “It actually started off with pain on the top of my left foot.”
Voos may have had unrecognized symptoms of psoriasis even earlier, remembering a persistent dry patch of skin on her scalp as a child.
Still, her path to diagnosis wasn’t linear. Once she got one diagnosis, others quickly followed.
“It was like, ‘Oh, you have insulin resistance,’ ‘Oh, you have psoriatic arthritis,’ ‘Oh, you have PCOS,’ which is actually a bigger umbrella of insulin resistance. So, it was kind of a crazy-pants time,” Voos said.
Some treatments ended up causing additional problems for Voos. After receiving a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, she developed a stomach ulcer from the anti-inflammatory medications she took to manage joint pain.
Psoriasis can vary in severity. Some people only have plaques on a few areas of their body, while others may have more than 10% of their skin covered in psoriasis plaques.
No matter how much of your skin is affected by psoriasis, symptoms can affect your self-confidence. For Voos, psoriasis plaques affected her self-esteem.
“I went through a lot of anxiety being in public because I had scary-looking patches all over me,” Voos said. “Of course, my worst nightmare happened, where someone actually asked me if it was chicken pox. As if I had a contagious disease all over me.”
Having very visible psoriasis plaques was a difficult experience for Voos. Still, she sees it as a silver lining.
“Finding things that help relieve the symptoms on my face made me appreciate the psoriasis was mostly in spots that were covered,” Voos said. “I don’t think I would appreciate my skin as much as I do now if it hadn’t gotten so bad.”
Some research suggests that anxiety and depression are common in people with psoriasis. But finding a support system that understands what you’re experiencing can help.
Voos emphasized the importance of finding people you can relate to after receiving a psoriasis diagnosis.
Psoriasis isn’t uncommon, but it can be hard to find people near you with the condition. Looking further from home when building your support network is something Voos suggests.
For her, finding online communities has been helpful, and posting about other interests, like plus-size fashion content, has helped her build a supportive psoriasis community.
“It’s actually common that I find people who are also plus-sized, who have psoriasis,” Voos said. “It’s like we’re in this together.”
Once you’ve found your people, she recommends being open about your experiences and finding common ground.
“Having that community that understands what you’re going through and supports you, that is always helpful,” Voos said. “If you’re doing it all alone, and you’re constantly having negative self-talk with yourself, I think it’s easy to get in that negative cycle.”
Depending on your treatment plan, psoriasis can take up a large portion of your routine. Taking time for some additional self-care can help.
Voos relies on her support system and online community to share tips about what works best for managing psoriasis.
“They suggest things for me like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that last medication didn’t work for you. I’m on this one. Maybe try that,’” Voos said.
Voos’ reliance on her support system goes both ways. She also gives tips to her friends and followers, like keeping Aquaphor on hand to help with symptoms.
When it comes to caring for herself through nutrition, Voos tries to keep to an anti-inflammatory diet, but she acknowledges that these can be difficult to stick to.
“I haven’t nailed how to calm down all the inflammation in my body yet,” Voos said. “I have tried gluten- and dairy-free in the past, as advised by my dermatologist, but it is really hard to stick to since I know how delicious bread and cheese are.”
When asked about her recommendations for other people living with psoriasis, Voos had several pieces of advice to share with Healthline.
“Everyone’s psoriasis is different, and it might be a long journey to finding what works for you, but don’t give up!”
Many treatments are available for psoriasis, but finding the right option can take time. Voos suggests keeping this in mind as you look for what’s right for you.
“I think that’s what is great about having so many [treatment] options. We all react to them differently. And then the nature of psoriasis is it [might stop responding] to treatment,” Voos said.
There are multiple new psoriasis treatments on the horizon. Consider asking a member of your healthcare team if participating in a clinical trial would be a good option for you. For Voos, these trials were a good way to try different medications at no cost.
Advocate for yourself
“If it’s not the right fit, don’t be scared to ask for a second opinion or a referral to somewhere else.”
Living with a chronic condition can make interacting with healthcare professionals complicated. If your values aren’t aligned, Voos suggests finding a different team that works for you.
Specifically, being a plus-sized woman has affected her view of healthcare. Her willingness to advocate for herself comes, in part, from her “weariness of being plus-sized going to the doctor,” she said.
“It can be a very jarring experience,” Voos said. “[Doctors say,] ‘Go weigh yourself,’ and ‘Have you thought of surgery?'”
Start with kindness
“Just be kind. You never know what someone is going through, and there are lots of invisible diseases you might not even know someone is dealing with.”
Living with multiple health conditions has helped Voos realize the importance of treating others with kindness.
“While [psoriasis] can be a very visible disease … a lot of what I’m experiencing right now is under my clothes, inflammation within my body, and a lot of joint pain,” Voos said.
“[My experience is] just one example of what others might be going through. So, always start with kindness, and know that people might be going through some stuff that you just can’t visibly see.”
Voos says that approaching people with kindness is the one piece of advice she would “scream from the rooftops.”
Victoria Voos is a plus-size content creator located in San Diego, CA. On her social media platforms and blog, she talks about plus-size fashion, lifestyle, and her journey with Psoriasis. When she isn’t on her own social media pages, she works as a Social Media Manager for other brands. You can follow her @FlyForAGinger or at her blog FlyForAGinger.com.