The skin condition I’m learning to live with at 68 5



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At 68 I’m learning to live with, and accept flabby thighs, a turkey neck, leathery skin and facial lines. Now, unfairly, I have a more distressing, unattractive and downright nasty-looking physical unattractiveness to tolerate; an ugly but painless generic skin condition on my legs and arms known as Disseminated Superficial Actinic Porokeratosis, or DSAP.

I noticed the first signs on my legs about 10 years ago. Brown and red lesions, dry scaly patches, and large slightly raised pink rings, spreading rapidly over the lower leg, then, to a lesser extent, my arms.

Naturally concerned, I showed my GP who misdiagnosed actinic keratosis (a very common misdiagnosis). She prescribed nasty topical creams which made not a jolt of difference. Nitrous oxide was applied to ‘burn them off’ – 33 in total. Nothing worked to reduce the spread or remove the lesions and pigmentation.

A visit to a skin specialist took 30 seconds (and $400) to diagnose DSAP; no hesitation, no doubt. I was so pleased to finally have a diagnosis! I presumed a treatment plan would follow. My mistake. I was told there is no known treatment, and there is nothing that will remove, fade or reduce the unsightly ugly splotches. Naturally I consulted Dr Google in the hope there must be something, but read ‘in clinical studies topical treatments were researched and tried, but no promising treatment was found’.

Disheartened, I realised I need to learn to live with this disfigurement and find coping strategies. I’ve been hiding my legs beneath trousers – no skirts, shorts or dresses – very tough during the summer months. With a yearning to wear pretty summer dresses I began to wear leg make-up and concealer to camouflage the worst of the marks. Sadly, although it made a slight difference, it is impossible to conceal totally.

I can only be thankful DSAP doesn’t affect the face, and my arms aren’t as marked as my legs, but I notice they are worsening gradually and obviously.

My research tells me this is a common condition especially after 40, and steadily increases with age. Both men and women can have DSAP.

With my new awareness I’ve noticed DSAP on others. I wonder if they have been correctly diagnosed, or mistakenly think they have ‘sun damage’. At a recent wedding, while chatting with a woman my age I noticed the tell-tale red, raised scaly marks on her wrists (other than her face, her only exposed skin). Bravely I showed her my identical marks, and asked her if she also had them on her legs. “Oh yes” she replied,” it’s caused by the sun. I’ve tried every cream possible but they won’t go away”. After comparing our skin, I was convinced she also had DSAP. She was stunned to know that many doctors and skin specialists she has consulted ill-informed and misdiagnosed her, prescribing useless lotions, potions and other treatments that had cost her heavily financially over many years.


I’d love to wear pretty feminine fashionable tops and dresses. I’d love to show-off toned tanned legs and arms once again. But I’m resigned to the fact those days are behind me. My vanity is such I do not want my badly marked skin to be on show.

DSAP isn’t contagious. Marked, scarred, damaged skin can be lived with. I’m grateful I have limbs that work. I’m grateful DSAP is not life-threatening. I’m grateful I’m still able to find fashionable clothing to hide my disfiguring skin.

I hope my story will be read by someone who recognises the symptoms I’ve described and can now stop looking for a treatment or cure. If you are a fellow sufferer let’s start a discussion to support and share with each other thoughts, feelings and coping strategies.

If you have been diagnosed with DSAP and have found a lotion, potion or other treatment that reduces the symptoms I’d love to hear from you.

Do you have any advice or solutions for Judi?

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  1. Thank you. I have this on my leg, very itchy. And now little marks on the backs of my hands… If I give in and scratch, they get much worse.
    So far I’ve paid a dermatologist $360 for two 10 minute sessions and two lots of expensive ointments, which have had no effect whatsoever. She diagnosed Venous Eczema, related to varicose veins, which it is obvious to anyone I don’t have.
    Trying apple cider vinegar now, and lots and lots of lanolin and body cream. But now maybe I too have to accept that my formerly attractive legs must be continuously covered under trousers all year round….

  2. i’ve had psoriasis for the last 47 years. I can’t remember the last time I wore a dress. Last summer I was able to wear t shirts for the first time in years (thanks to a cream I discovered). Skin ailments are not given the same sympathy as other medical conditions. Get used to it!

  3. I would like to see a picture of the marks to compare with mine please

    1 REPLY
    • There is a photo of a leg showing a few marks within the text for you to compare with.

  4. I don’t like my skinny, veiny legs, so in summer I hide them under some lovely long lightweight skirts that I bought at Katies (online, when they were on special – click & collect to save on postage) and at Vinnies. I mix and match them with 3/4 sleeve tops to stop my arms from getting sunburnt. And I have a few pairs of lightweight slacks that I wear with long-sleeved floaty blouses, which disguise a multitude of skin and figure faults. In winter, longish skirts and knee-high boots, or slacks and t’s or shirts is the go. I think if one can get creative with colours, scarves and accessories, then people don’t notice the problem areas.

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