Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by patches of red skin covered with white, flakey dead skin cells. The patches, sometimes called lesions, appear most often on the scalp, knees, elbow and torso. They can be itchy or painful. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, Psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the United States, with approximately 7.5 million Americans suffering with this disease. Even so, there are still many myths surrounding this disease. The following are 8 myths and facts to help you better understand psoriasis.
Myth: Psoriasis is caused by poor hygiene.
Fact: Because psoriasis is a skin disease, many people mistakenly believe that poor hygiene is at the root of the red, scaly patches. Most people with this condition have a genetic tendency to develop psoriasis. Other factors, such as stress, injury, hormones and some medications can worsen psoriasis but do not cause it.
Myth: Psoriasis is contagious
Fact: Because psoriasis patches are red and can, at times, crack and bleed, many people think that the skin is infected and can be contagious. This is not true. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, not an infection, and you cannot “catch” psoriasis by touching or being in contact with someone with psoriasis.
Myth: There is no treatment for psoriasis.
Fact: While there is no cure for psoriasis, there are many different treatments. From medications, phototherapy and ointments to stress relief strategies, you can lessen the symptoms. There is no one treatment that works for everyone, as everyone reacts differently. Working together with your doctor you should be able to determine which treatment works best for you.
Myth: Psoriasis always looks the same.
Fact: Patches or lesions of psoriasis are normally red skin covered by a white scaly plaque. However, in African-Americans, psoriasis may look differently, appearing the same color as the skin. The best way to tell whether or not you have psoriasis is to have your doctor do a biopsy of the skin plaques.
Myth: Psoriasis is simply a skin or cosmetic condition.
Fact: The most visible symptom of psoriasis is the red, scaly patches on the skin. It is however, an autoimmune disease, not a skin condition. Some people also have psoriatic arthritis, which, as in other forms of arthritis, causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling.
Myth: There is a cure for psoriasis.
Fact: There are numerous treatments for psoriasis, including medication, light therapy and ointments, however there is no cure for the condition. Other treatments, such as oatmeal baths, can help to relieve itching. There is, however, no cure. Psoriasis is considered a life-long, chronic condition.
Myth: You can tell if you have psoriasis just by looking at the patches.
Fact: The main symptom of psoriasis is red, scaly patches on the skin. But other conditions can cause similar symptoms, such as eczema. The only proper way to diagnose psoriasis is to consult with a dermatologist who can perform medical testing, such as a biopsy, to confirm a diagnosis of psoriasis.
Myth: Psoriasis is a temporary condition and will go away in time.
Fact: Psoriasis is considered to be a lifelong, chronic condition. Many people experience outbreaks or flare-ups and then have periods of time when their skin is clear. This doesn’t mean that the disease has been cured or has gone away, but rather there are cycles.
“About Psoriasis: Statistics,” 2012, Staff Writer, National Psoriasis Foundation
“Psoriasis: 6 Common Myths,” Date Unknown, Author Unknown, CBSNews
“Psoriasis Myths and Misconceptions,” Date Unknown, author Unknown, National Psoriasis Foundation
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.