Psoriasis is a highly visible medical condition. So you will invariably get questions – or, more rudely, stares -- at some point when you are out in public.
You might prefer to cover up any plaques, but even that can cause people to wonder if something is wrong. In the hot summer months you might look out of place in long sleeves and long pants. While encounters like this can be awkward, they can also be an opportunity to help others understand psoriasis.
When sharing information about psoriasis, be sure to know the facts and share accurate information. Open and honest communication is the best way to fight the stigma of psoriasis and help you feel more comfortable in public. The following are five things to tell people who don’t understand psoriasis:
_It is not contagious. _ There are a number of medical conditions with rashes that are contagious, for example chicken pox and to a lesser extent shingles, impetigo and staphylococcus infections. When people notice your psoriasis, they might wonder if it is contagious. Reassure people it is not. Explain that it is an autoimmune reaction and it causes lesions and plaques on your skin that can be itchy and painful.
Treatments for psoriasis are individualized to the person. You might hear statements such as, "Have you tried…?" Or you might hear, "My cousin has psoriasis and she swears by using…" Explain that while there are general treatments, symptoms are often different in each person and that your treatment is individualized to your specific symptoms.
_Psoriasis is more than a rash. _ Most people have experienced a rash sometime in their life, whether from poison ivy, chicken pox or some other temporary condition. They might see psoriasis as simply a nuisance rash. Explain that psoriasis is a chronic skin condition. The major symptoms include red patches of scaly skin that can crack and bleed. It can also be painful and extremely itchy. Some people experience swollen and stiff joints as well. In addition, people with psoriasis have a higher risk of developing other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease and other autoimmune diseases.
_There are emotional components to living with psoriasis. _ Explain that living with psoriasis is difficult. Many people with the disease have low self-esteem and often feel judged by others. You might sometimes feel embarrassed by unsightly plaques and feel alone when others don’t want to be near you because of it. You might feel alone and isolated. Letting others know how psoriasis affects you, physically and emotionally, is important.
_Psoriasis is a chronic condition but it doesn’t define who you are. _ While you want to accurately explain what psoriasis is, you also want the other person to know that you are not defined by your medical condition. Briefly explain your condition and then talk about common interests. If the conversation continues to cycle back to psoriasis, confront the issue with something like, "I do have psoriasis and there are days that are painful and difficult, however, I do not allow my psoriasis to define who I am." Then change the subject.
Talking about your psoriasis with others might feel uncomfortable at first. You might be used to hiding it because of a fear of rejection and misunderstanding. However, being open and honest can ultimately help you feel less self-conscious and more accepted. Remember, when people ask questions, it usually signifies they want to understand. By sharing information, you could potentially increase your circle of support.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of 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.