Once and for all: Psoriasis is not contagious.
“When people see someone with red, scaly skin, they may not realize what’s going on, and they may be afraid of it,” says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Not knowing exactly what you’re looking at, you may even confuse it with contagious skin conditions like leprosy or contagious rashes.
So, facts first: Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the immune system that causes skin cells to build up before old ones shed naturally. It affects around two to three percent of the American population, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). Learn more about what psoriasis is here.
Not surprisingly, misconceptions of psoriasis have cropped up over the years, even among people who have psoriasis themselves. Here are the most common myths about psoriasis that dermatologists hear, according to Dr. Friedler.
MYTH: Psoriasis is contagious.
Psoriasis is not a bacterial or viral infection and cannot be transferred from one person to another. You can’t contract psoriasis from touching their psoriasis rashes or by kissing, sharing a water bottle, swimming in a pool, or having sex with someone with psoriasis. Researchers are still looking for the exact cause of psoriasis, but it appears to be connected to the interplay of a person’s immune system, genes, and environment, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
MYTH: Psoriasis is just a bad rash on the skin.
The potential complications of psoriasis go way beyond your skin health. “Psoriasis can affect your emotional well being, and it can also affect other organ systems in your body,” says Dr. Friedler. Severe psoriasis is also linked to having a higher risk of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
MYTH: Psoriasis will get better on its own.
Treating psoriasis is essential—not only for reducing symptoms but also for preventing complications that may affect your overall health. Psoriasis requires you to actively treat and manage the condition, or the symptoms may become more severe and then become even harder to treat, according to NPF.
MYTH: Psoriasis only affects older adults.
Most people with psoriasis get diagnosed between 15 and 30 years of age, according to the AAD. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in children or midlife: “Psoriasis can appear in patients that are very young to patients that are very old,” says Dr. Friedler.
MYTH: A family history of psoriasis means you’ll get it.
Typically, someone with psoriasis will have at least one family member who also has the condition. However, having a family member with psoriasis doesn’t set your fate in stone. “The right conditions need to be present for psoriasis to come out,” says Dr. Friedler. “That’s why leading a healthy lifestyle can help keep your psoriasis in check.”
In addition to a genetic disposition to psoriasis, some of the triggers researchers have found include a traumatic event, strep throat, some medications, or a skin injury, like a cut or bad sunburn, according to the AAD.
MYTH: Psoriasis can be cured.
The goal of psoriasis treatment is to manage the disease, not to cure it. At this time, psoriasis cannot be cured. However, with proper treatment and lifestyle changes, you can reduce symptoms, sometimes for long periods of time. “With newer medications, there [is] great promise for long periods of remission where the skin is completely clear,” says Dr. Friedler.
MYTH: Psoriasis treatments are uncomfortable.
True, some psoriasis therapies involve needles, messy creams, and even surgeries in severe cases. However, newer treatment options, such as oral medications, can effectively reduce symptoms and inhibit inflammation without much pain or discomfort, according to NPF. Your doctor can work with you to find the treatment option that fits your needs.
Psoriasis: diagnosis and treatment. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on March 21, 2018 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/psoriasis#treatment.)
Psoriasis treatments. Portland, OR: National Psoriasis Foundation. (Accessed on March 21, 2018 at https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/treatments.)
Psoriasis: who gets and causes. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on March 21, 2018 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/psoriasis#causes.)