It’s National Psoriasis Awareness Week and a chance to shine a light on this painful skin problem. Here, ANGELA KELLY talks to one sufferer.

PSORIASIS is no laughing matter for Manchester comedian Toby Hadoke.

The well-known actor, writer and presenter started with the condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches on the skin when he was 11 and at 44 he is still prone to outbreaks.

“I’d had a very bad throat infection and been put on penicillin so the doctors thought it was a bad reaction to that,” explained Toby. “But my mum – an ex-Guy’s Hospital nurse who read medical books – didn’t think it was and made them look at it again. Then it was diagnosed as psoriasis.”

The most common form of the condition is plaque psoriasis which accounts for between 80 and 90 per cent of all cases. It involved often painful and itchy scaly patches which can appear on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back of sufferers.

The condition affects around two per cent of the UK population. It can start at any age but most often develops in adults under 35.

Psoriais is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that varies from being a minor irritation for some to extremely damaging to others’ quality of life. It involves the increased production of skin cells and is thought to be related to the body’s own immune system working against it.

“When something goes wrong, you get the alarms going off and the shutters coming down – complete over-kill” is how Toby explains it.

A trauma, injury to the skin or illness can be the trigger. In Toby’s case, it was a bad throat infection – something which can still cause him a severe outbreak of psoriasis.

He, unfortunately, gets the patches all over his body including on his scalp. He used to have two red patches on either side of his nose for years, which he felt were very noticeable, until a specialist diagnosed these as seborrhoeic dermatitis and prescribed a steroid cream which got rid of them.

He has used all kinds of creams from his GP over the years and had times when his skin was very painful “although I did generally get used to it.” Embarrassing outbreaks, however, did sometimes prevent him for going for TV work “which is all very visual, of course”.

Psoriasis can be very itchy and scratching it results in shedding skin. “I’ve sometimes got a little pile of skin next to me and wonder why people are staring,” added Toby.

The condition is not contagious but “it can look pretty awful sometimes and people do say things without really thinking – which I can completely understand”, stated Toby.

He has been helped a great deal by experts at the Royal Free Hospital in London and now has an injection every two weeks. “In fact, I’m amazed by how good my skin is at the moment,” he said.

However, he knows that not only can he have an outbreak at any time but also that the condition of his skin can be upsetting and can affect sufferers like him psychologically.

Toby works with the Psoriasis Association UK on various panels and is a positive spokesperson for fellow sufferers. “I think patients need to know that it’s all right to talk about how they feel about their psoriasis,” he commented. “And they need to feel able to ask their GP about different creams.

“We can all move on from feeling that our psoriasis is in control of us to knowing that we are in control of it.”

For more information, contact the Psoriasis Association UK on 01604 251620 or go to