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Psoriasis can be a creep.
It’s bad enough that the red, scaly patches show up just about everywhere from your scalp to your elbows to your butt crack (yep… even there). But potentially worse than the symptoms themselves? All the fake news surrounding the condition.
Ask anyone living with psoriasis and they’ll probably have a ton of stories about all the silly things they’ve heard, experienced, or tried to debunk.
From the factually incorrect (“It’s contagious!”) to the just plain weird (“Only women can get psoriasis”), we’ve got 11 psoriasis myths it’s time to stop believing ASAP.
1. It’s contagious
Definitely not, doctors say.
“That’s a big misconception,” says Dr. Steven Feldman, a dermatology professor at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.
According to Feldman, there are even reports of people with psoriasis being banned from public swimming pools because of this nonsense. “There’s no reason they couldn’t [swim],” he says.
Unfortunately, this is a myth that’s got a lot of people fooled. About one-third of the public incorrectly thinks the skin disorder can be spread, says Dr. Joel Gelfand, a dermatology professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Bottom line: Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by immune dysfunction — it can’t be spread to others. Got it?
2. There’s a cure
We wish we could say otherwise, but there’s currently no cure for psoriasis. Don’t give up hope, though! More patients than ever before are managing their symptoms and seeing clearer skin, doctors say.
The medical community has made major strides in finding better, more effective treatments, says Feldman. Options include prescription medicines, over-the-counter products, and diet and lifestyle changes.
The odds are ever in your favor to find a treatment plan that can help quell those pesky symptoms.
Maybe the next best thing to a cure is the fact that about 10 percent of cases go into a “spontaneous remission” for months or even years at a time, says Gelfand. “We don’t really understand why that is,” he says. But hey — it’s a start.
3. It’s just itchy skin — this can’t be serious
While psoriasis is most commonly associated with itchy, patterned patches of dry skin, it’s also connected with some potentially worrisome health conditions, including diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease.
It can also affect your joints and cause arthritis (known as psoriatic arthritis). People who have psoriasis are also more likely to experience depression.
“It can have serious physical and emotional symptoms for patients as well as the risks of internal diseases,” Gelfand says.
4. Give me drugs! Only medicine helps
There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all psoriasis, so some people may find different, medication-free ways to alleviate their skin symptoms.
Try using a shampoo that contains zinc (like the anti-dandruff shampoo Head & Shoulders) if you have irritation on your scalp.
Going out into the sunlight or changing the soap you use might also be an effective drug-free solution, says Dr. Gelfand, who recommended Dove as a gentle cleansing option.
Making lifestyle changes when it comes to stress, smoking, and weight could also make a difference.
5. Lordy, I’m the only one stuck with this
Oh, honey, no. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, as many as 7.5 million people in the United States may live with psoriasis.
Celebrities galore — like Kim Kardashian West, LeAnn Rimes, and Phil Mickelson — are doing their part to fight the stigma by being more vocal about their psoriasis-related struggles.
Not only are you not alone, but there are tons of resources and communities out there to give you support when you need it.
6. Psoriasis patches appear only in visible places like the arms and legs
The elbows, arms, legs, and scalp get the most press coverage when talking about psoriasis flare-ups, but the truth is it can appear in tons of places. It’s been known to pop up on fingernails and toenails, in the groin region, and even on the soles of the feet.
So if you notice any rogue patches, it’s probably totally normal. If you’re concerned, give your healthcare provider a call. They can help you find the best way to kick that flare-up out the door.
7. Psoriasis is ladies-only
We don’t know how this one got started, but allow us to set the record straight: Research shows men and women are equally likely to develop psoriasis.
However, research has found that some racial groups are more likely to experience the disorder.
A 2014 analysis of survey data found that 3.7 percent of non-Hispanic white adults in the U.S. had psoriasis, compared with 2 percent of non-Hispanic black adults and 1.6 percent of adults who didn’t identify as belonging to either of those categories.
8. Silly doctor — psoriasis is for teens
Psoriasis doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age. Most people develop the condition in their 20s (which seems to be how psoriasis earned its reputation as a young person’s condition), but there’s also a peak in incidence in people ages 50 to 60.
The truth: Psoriasis can affect people of any age, from children to older adults.
9. This can’t hit me below the belt
Remember when we said psoriasis is a creep? It can flare up from your head to your toes, and yep, that includes your genitals. A non-clinician can easily mistake a genital flare-up for an STD in a person with undiagnosed psoriasis.
This confusion over flare-ups is part of the reason Dr. Gelfand estimates that 3 million Americans live without knowing they have psoriasis.
10. You can’t blame the family tree
Sorry, Mom and Dad: Psoriasis can indeed run in families. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 1 in 3 people with psoriasis have a family member with the same diagnosis.
A child who has one parent with psoriasis has about a 10 percent chance of developing it — and that chance goes up to 50 percent if both parents have the condition.
11. Psoriasis looks the same on everybody
Nope. Again, this condition is super varied. Psoriasis comes in multiple forms. The most common type may cause dry, red, silvery plaques, and a rarer, more extreme form could make your fingers appear to crumble.
Another type is often triggered by strep throat and causes raindrop-shaped scaling plaques on your body. One type even causes pus-filled blisters.
The types all look different. But as annoying as that may be, rest assured that whatever your symptoms are, you’re not alone and you have tons of options for finding relief.
Now that you know what’s true and what’s false when it comes to psoriasis, you can spread the good word, make smart choices about your condition, and take all that fake news out with the trash.