Psoriasis: Myths and Facts

Health Writer
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Psoriasis is a skin condition characterized by patches of red skin covered with white, flaky dead skin cells. It occurs most often on the scalp, knees, elbows, and torso and can be itchy and painful. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that affects approximately 7.5 million Americans according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Despite its prevalence, there are still many myths surrounding this disease. Here, we give you the facts.


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 crack and bleed, some 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 the condition.


Myth: There is no treatment for psoriasis.

Fact: There are a number of different treatments. Mild psoriasis might be treated with topical medications. Moderate and severe psoriasis are treated with systemic or biologic medications and phototherapy. There is no one treatment that works for everyone, as everyone reacts differently. Working together with your doctor will help you determine which treatment works best for you.


Myth: Psoriasis is easy to recognize.

Fact: There are five different types of psoriasis according  the National Psoriasis Foundation. Plaque psoriasis is the most common and appears as raised, red patches with a silvery white flaky skin on top. Other types include guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. Each type looks different.


Myth: Psoriasis is simply a skin condition.

Fact: The most visible symptom of psoriasis is the red, scaly patches on the skin, but it can cause inflammation throughout the body, which puts you at risk for other diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes. Some people with psoriasis 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: Psoriasis can be treated with topical creams and medications, but it is considered 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.


Myth: You can tell if you have psoriasis just by looking at your skin.

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 a physical exam and possibly medical testing, such as a biopsy, to confirm the diagnosis.


Myth: Psoriasis only develops in adults.

Fact: Psoriasis is more common in adults than in children. The majority of people with psoriasis had their first outbreak between the ages of 15 and 35. One third of those with psoriasis get it before the age of 20. Around 20,000 children under the age of 10 are diagnosed with psoriasis according to National Psoriasis Foundation.