Odessa youth Jacob Leuthold walks to cure psoriasisWednesday, October 27th, 2010
By Kyle LoJacono
What started as just a couple bumps on Jacob Leuthold’s head turned into a seven-month search for answers.
“We went to seven doctors in that time and each thought it was something else,” said Jacob’s mother, Susan. “None of the treatments or shampoos did anything. Finally we found out he had psoriasis and we got him the treatment he needed.”
The main problem with the diagnosis is psoriasis, which has no cure, is very uncommon in children. Most people do not see signs until turning 15, but Jacob saw the bumps at 9.
The condition is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States, according to Catie Coman, spokeswoman for the nonprofit National Psoriasis Foundation. There are about 69,000 people with the condition in the Tampa Bay area and 7.5 million in the country.
Jacob, 13, said he wanted to do something to help fight the disease. He and his mother looked around and found several walks to raise money for psoriasis research and awareness, but none were near their Odessa home.
“A doctor told us about the foundation and we wrote them asking if we could start a walk in the area and they said several people had asked them the same question,” Susan said. “When it got started they asked if Jacob could be the youth ambassador at the walk. I’m really excited about that.”
The walk starts at 9 a.m. Nov. 6 at Ballast Point Park, 5300 Interbay Blvd. in Tampa. Interested walkers can do either a 1K (1 kilometer or 0.6 miles) or 5K (3.1 miles). It is free to participate, but donations are accepted for the foundation.
The main symptoms of psoriasis are very painful and itchy bumps and blotches on the skin caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself. It can also cause large red areas, cracks in the skin, bleeding and scabs.
Jacob said his biggest problem is the constant itching.
“It’s really annoying,” Jacob said. “It’s bad all day long and doesn’t get any better. It’s hard to focus on school when I’m always itching.”
The outbreaks are mainly on Jacob’s head, but it used to be all across his skin. He had severe psoriasis, which means 10 percent or more of his body was covered. His condition is now considered mild, which means less than 2 percent is covered.
“We use a couple of topical medications,” Susan said. “We also have to make sure he doesn’t get too much sun because sunburns make it worse … We switched to basically organic milk and meat and that seems to have helped. He also has a pro-biotic drink that doctors have told us helps reduce the coverage.”
Outbreaks represent more than short-term discomfort. Coman said the more severe the case, the more likely it is for people to develop long-term health problems like heart disease, type II diabetes and liver disease.
Psoriasis is genetically based, but is set off by something in the environment, according to Coman. No one else in Jacob’s family has it.
One problem those with psoriasis have is people think it is contagious.
“It isn’t contagious in any way,” Coman said. “Almost everyone with it has a story about being asked to leave a public pool because people think it’s contagious. That also makes it hard to make friends.”
One advantage Jacob has is he and a lot of his friends had a third-grade teacher named Linda Goode at McKitrick Elementary in Lutz who also has psoriasis.
“That made things easier when we first told Jacob he had it,” Susan said. “He said that’s what Ms. Goode has. All his friends know what it is and it isn’t a problem for him.”
Goode still teaches at McKitrick; Jacob currently attends Martinez Middle.
Jacob’s goal is to raise $500 in donations at the walk and he is currently at just more than $200. The overall goal in Tampa is $35,000, of which nearly $5,000 has been collected. Anyone interested in signing up for the walk or donating should visit walk.psoriasis.org, click “find a walk near you” and select Tampa.
Coman said the walks fund research while letting those with the condition know they are not alone.
Jacob said he wants as many people to show up even if they do not have psoriasis.
“I think it will help them understand it better,” Jacob said. “It will show them there are a lot of people with psoriasis and we are like anyone else. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this so I can do something to fight psoriasis and let people know more about it.”
Jacob’s psoriasis walk
What: 1K or 5K walk
When: Nov. 6 at 9 a.m.
Where: Ballast Point Park, 5300 Interbay Blvd. in Tampa
Charge: Free, donations accepted
To signup: walk.psoriasis.org