BY MEG MONTAGUE
Shaun Cumming is a popular YouTube vlogger from Edinburgh. The over 700 videos he has uploaded to the platform in the last five years mainly focus on his travels through countries such as Brazil, Iceland and the United States. He has also talked about topics as far-reaching as Scottish history, American fast food and the television show Outlander. Overall, Shaun makes his videos all about the world from a Scottish perspective and has since garnered a following of over 160,000 people.
He has also been open and honest about the skin condition he has suffered from for over 18 years: psoriasis.
According to the NHS’ website; psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. It affects around 2% of the UK population and can be incredibly varied in how severely it presents itself. Some people experience it just as a minor irritation, while some can have their quality of life significantly altered.
“Psoriasis hasn’t really affected my day-to-day life, though there is [sic] a couple of things it does really affect,” Shaun explains. “I tend to wake up at night quite a lot, especially when I’m having flares and obviously itching a lot… It makes me quite tired and fatigued.”
Although Shaun admits to covering up his psoriasis with the clothes he wears, he doesn’t let the condition stop him from putting himself out there in front of his large audience. “In terms of confidence it doesn’t tend to bother me too much, it’s something I’ve always had a lot of. But I do know there’s a lot of people out there who have psoriasis who are very uncomfortable with it and don’t have confidence, it obviously makes it a lot worse for them.”
That’s not to say rude comments from online trolls don’t bother him. With videos raking up thousands of views and hundreds of comments, the sad reality is that some of those comments are bound to be less than kind. In the past, he has been asked if he’s been bitten, or if his condition is contagious. One particularly ignorant commenter even demands to know if he ‘has scabies’.
Shaun tries to keep some perspective when he considers these comments. “I do tend to fall back a little bit and think people just don’t understand it, they’ve never – probably – seen it before up close,” he said. “It’s something I’m constantly aware of, and that’s why I tend to cover up ‘cause I just try to avoid the comments.”
It is this ignorance that he has seen from online commenters that inspired him to be more proactive in raising awareness about psoriasis. On his Instagram page, he has posted pictures and videos, unapologetically, showing the reality of what it is like to have and suffer from this particular skin condition.
But while Shaun has been trying to raise awareness of the condition, psoriasis itself still poses many mysteries to those who study and treat it.
“Essentially people don’t know exactly why people get psoriasis,” explains dermatologist, Dr. Kenny Stewart, “It’s a complex interplay of many different factors, including your immune system. Also lifestyle; things like smoking, obesity…”
“There are genetic factors, so, if you’ve got psoriasis, you’ve got a 30% chance you’ll have a family member who’s got psoriasis. Nobody has ever been able to nail down what particular gene it is. ”
Like Shaun, the majority of those with psoriasis are diagnosed with the condition before they are 35. But despite this, Dr. Stewart explains that you still have a chance of developing psoriasis at any age. “I think the oldest person who was recorded to have got psoriasis was 104, so you’d have thought you would’ve been clear of it by then. That’s bad luck.”
The 29th of October marks World Psoriasis Day, a day of awareness organised by the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations (IFPA)