National Psoriasis Foundation. National Institutes of Health. Robert A. Swerlick, MD, associate professor/vice chairman, department of dermatology, Emory University School of Medicine; chief of dermatology service, Veterans Affairs Hospital, Decatur, Ga
AARON RIBNER: There'ssome tenderness to it.There are days where it's justpainful.And your skin's cracking,it's bleeding.
GILLIAN RIBNER: Sometimesthe bad days outnumberthe good days.And bad days can be really bad,to the point where he'sin tears.The pain is so bad he'sin tears.
AARON RIBNER: It can be verydemoralizing to lookin the mirrorand see this condition chewingaway at your body.
ROBERT SWERLICK: The conditionthat Aaron Ribner battles ispsoriasis, a non-contagious skindisorder that currently hasno cureand afflicts between 2% and 3%of the world's population.For those unaffected,it may seem odd that a skindisorder would be sooverwhelming.
AARON RIBNER: You makeaccommodations.But it becomesdifficult and challenging.You might wear your beardlonger.You might grow your hair longer.I've certainly doneboth of those thingsto cover up areas of my bodywhere I've got psoriasis.
DAMON MEHARG: Outbreaks cansometimes be triggeredby emotional stress, injuryto the skin, or by infections,such as strep.Because it can masqueradeas other skin conditions,especially in its early stages,diagnosis can be difficult.Aaron was told he had a bad caseof dermatitisby two different specialistsbefore he was eventually seenby Emery's Dr. Robert Swerlick.
ROBERT SWERLICK: When I saw him,he actually had evidenceof an active strep infection.We treated that and also put himon a biologic agent.He did dramatically better.And in fact, he came offall therapy for a while.
DAMON MEHARG: Though much isstill unknown about psoriasis,experts believe it could bean inheritedautoimmune disorder, where skincell production isaccelerated and lesions form,ravaging the skin.Treatments include phototherapy,steroids, topicals, and newerbiologic agents which suppressthe immune response.
ROBERT SWERLICK: It'shard to imagine how I actuallypracticed with some of the olderthingswere you'd smear peoplewith tar and smelly thingsand goop them up,where now medications that wehave at our disposalcan really put peopleinto virtually completeremission.
DAMON MEHARG: Treatments can beexpensive and sometimesdifficult to acquire.Such was the case with Aaronwhen his next outbreak occurred.As his symptoms got worse,the disease took its tollon his family.
AARON RIBNER: They knowthat Daddy hurts.They know that those areasof his bodyare very tender and very sore.So they become much more gingerabout coming up and havingphysical contact.
GILLIAN RIBNER: Why is that,Mommy?What's going on?Is Daddy going to die?You get those questions.
DAMON MEHARG: Not to mentionthe modificationsto his behavior he had to maketo keep from putting off friendsand business associates.
AARON RIBNER: I used to shakehands pretty much straight on.And now you shake hands kindof like more of a hip hop style.You come in from the top.
GILLIAN RIBNER: He is stilltrying to figure out how to talkto people, how to hide it.
AARON RIBNER: If you usethe word "genetic disorder,"people are morecomfortable with itthan a viral infectionor something like that theymight catch.And that's always reallyat the core of what people areafraid of-- oh, can I get that?