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Five Myths about Psoriasis, Debunked

Is psoriasis contagious? This and five other psoriasis myths debunked.

There’s a lot of information out there about psoriasis, but not all of it is the truth. And unfortunately, it’s often the common misconceptions that people hear about the most. So we thought, why not debunk the myths once and for all? Here goes.

Myth #1 Psoriasis is contagious

We’re not even sure what more to say about this one other than it simply not true! Psoriasis is not an infection, but an autoimmune disease. We now know that psoriasis is caused by a combination of genetic factors and environmental triggers1 – none of which can be passed on through contact with the affected skin. This type of information is important in helping to educate others.

Myth #2 Psoriasis is caused by poor hygiene

This couldn’t be more wrong! Psoriasis has nothing to do with hygiene and everything to do with bad luck – we now know the condition is caused by a combination of genes that make you more susceptible, plus environmental triggers such as infection, stress, or exposure to a particular agent. This causes the immune system to send out signals that speed the growth of skin cells. Rather than slough off like normal skin cells, these pile up to form those characteristic plaques1.

Myth #3 Psoriasis is easy to diagnose

Not always. Psoriasis isn’t just a case of flaky skin (which can also be a sign of eczema or seborrhoiec dermatitis).2  It tends to be characterized by itchy, silvery scaly patches (or plaques) that sit above red, inflamed skin that can crack and bleed.3 That said, the condition differs from person to person, which is why it’s so important to see a doctor. Sometimes a sample of skin will need to be tested to confirm a diagnosis2.

Myth #4 Psoriasis is just a rash

Not true. It’s actually a chronic autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation throughout the body.4 We now know, for example that psoriasis is linked to a higher risk of obesity,5 diabetes,6 high blood pressure,7 high cholesterol,8 heart attack, and stroke.9 The symptoms aren’t just limited to the skin, either. Around 30% of people with psoriasis find their joints are also affected – a painful, disabling condition known as psoriatic arthritis.10 So if anybody tries to dismiss your psoriasis as ‘just a rash’, be sure to hit them with the facts.

Myth #5 It will eventually just go away

Sadly not. The symptoms may disappear, but psoriasis is a chronic life-long condition, so they may well return.11 Psoriasis might be a life-long condition but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Speak to your doctor who will be able to advise you on the best way to manage yours.

So there are the facts. Now go forth and set the world straight. There might not be a cure for psoriasis (yet), but facts are definitely a cure for misinformation!

  1. Website “Mayo Clinic” – Causes. Last accessed: 09.10.15 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/basics/causes/con-20030838
  2. Website “Mayo Clinic” – Psoriasis, Tests and diagnosis. Last accessed: 09.10.15. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20030838
  3. Website “Mayo Clinic” – Psoriasis, Symptoms. Last accessed: 09.10.15. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriasis/basics/symptoms/con-20030838
  4. Website “SFGate” – Psoriasis - not just a skin disease. Commentary by Sonia Kalil, community development manager for the Northern California division of the National Psoriasis Foundation. Last accessed: 09.10.15. http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Psoriasis-not-just-a-skin-disease-4196559.php
  5. The association between psoriasis and obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Armstrong AW1, Harskamp CT, Armstrong EJ. Nutr Diabetes. 2012 Dec 3;2:e54. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=23208415
  6. Psoriasis and diabetes: a population-based cross-sectional study. Cohen AD, Dreiher J, Shapiro Y, Vidavsky L, Vardy DA, Davidovici B, Meyerovitch J. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2008 May;22(5):585-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=18331320
  7. Effect of psoriasis severity on hypertension control: a population-based study in the United Kingdom. Takeshita J, Wang S, Shin DB, Mehta NN, Kimmel SE, Margolis DJ, Troxel AB, Gelfand JM. JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Feb;151(2):161-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=25322196
  8. Website “American Academy of Dermatology” – Dermatologists urge psoriasis patients to be aware of potential link to other serious diseases. Last accessed: 09.10.15. https://www.aad.org/stories-and-news/news-releases/dermatologists-urge-psoriasis-patients-to-be-aware-of-potential-link-to-other-serious-diseases
  9. Website “MedScape” – Psoriasis: Why Does it Come With a Greater Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke? Last accessed: 09.10.15. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/772802
  10. Website “National Psoriasis Foundation” – About Psoriatic Arthritis. Last accessed: 09.10.15. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriatic-arthritis
  11. Website “Medline Plus” – Psoriasis. Last accessed: 09.10.15. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000434.htm

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