Psoriasis is a little like a teenager–it can get a bit over-dramatic and start rumors, but it’s simply a misunderstood disease. There are too many misconceptions about it, standing in the way of acceptance and education. Here are just three that I’d like to address:
1. Psoriasis is NOT contagious.
I know it looks that way, with its red and scaly appearance, but it is not contagious. There are about 7.5 million Americans currently living with psoriasis, so chances are very likely that most people have come in contact with someone with psoriasis and would have caught it if it were contagious. The exact cause of psoriasis is still unknown, but there are studies linked to genetics and multiple external triggers (such as stress, medication, injury to the skin, and illness) that could be the cause of psoriasis outbreaks. Another tricky thing about psoriasis is that not everyone is triggered by the same factors, so something that may cause my psoriasis to flare may not affect yours.
2. Psoriasis is not just dry skin.
Most people want to be helpful and provide solutions, but no, “just putting lotion on it” does not make it go away. Psoriasis is a life-long, autoimmune disease, where the affected skin cells grow at a faster pace than normal skin cells causing red, scaly patches. Although you may not be affected all the time by a flare-up, psoriasis is a disease that can trigger at any time and will always be a part of your life. It can be managed with medications and treatments, but those should always be discussed with a healthcare professional before beginning any treatment.
3. Psoriasis is not only a cosmetic problem.
The most noticeable thing about psoriasis is its appearance, but it’s much more than a skin disease. Approximately 30% of people with psoriasis have a condition that is called psoriatic arthritis, where people develop a stiffness and swelling in their joints and tendons. If you have psoriasis, it is important to speak regularly with your healthcare professional about your overall health, not just your skin.