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Olympian Dara Torres on Managing Her Psoriasis and Inspiring Others

Photos: Courtesy of Gabriela McAdams Ojeda

Olympic swimmer Dara Torres is a fierce competitor. One of her biggest adversaries? Psoriasis.

Torres has had the skin condition for decades. It flared up most during her professional career, when she was training and competing for Team USA. Torres ­– the most decorated U.S. female Olympic athlete of all time – has four gold, four silver and four bronze medals.

Torres first discovered her dry, itchy, flaky elbows when she was training for the 1992 Olympics. She went to a dermatologist who thought stress was affecting her skin, while the chlorine and sun combined to make the condition worse. 

The doctor advised Torres to lower her stress levels. That was tough since she was training for the Olympics, which is all about adrenaline and managing pressure.

“It really just had to do with my stress levels,” she explained. “I had to figure out how to maintain the levels of cortisol in my body and not get so stressed, but also put some ointment on that was going to help reduce the inflammation.”

Knowing yourself

Torres, who has competed in five Olympics, knows her body well. Now when she gets stressed, she exercises to release the tension. 

She’s not taking any medication for her psoriasis and she prefers to take an all-natural route to healing and maintaining her body. When her psoriasis flares, it’s mostly on her elbows and back.

Be proud

Torres advises others with psoriasis to own their diagnosis.

“Be proud in your own skin,” she said. “My business suit was a swimsuit so I couldn’t cover up and I realized I don’t really need to. This is who I am. If I have psoriasis, I have psoriasis.”

These days, Torres gives motivational talks on a variety of topics including health, pursuing your dreams at any age, and women’s empowerment. She says it’s a great feeling when she can share her story.

“We all go through many obstacles in our life,” she said, “and that’s why I enjoy telling my story and getting the different messages out there about overcoming obstacles, about hard work, sacrifice and dedication, and just being the best you can be.” 

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