Why Scientific Literacy Is Essential When You Have Psoriasis
Last updated: June 2018
How often have you searched for information on the internet and been frustrated at the amount of spam you find?
Identifying SPAM is usually pretty easy to do, it is the information that is not obviously spammy which is dangerous.
So what kinds of content masquerade as quality information? There are a few kinds to look out for.
#1: Information that is written as advice
Many people on the internet write about natural healing and psoriasis. The problem is that a number of them are not qualified to give advice and often base advice on their personal experiences which can be dangerous. So what is the difference between information and advice?
Information is what it says on the tin; it gives you what you need to help you conduct more focused research. For example, "Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to impact health. Anecdotal evidence shows that some people with psoriasis found that taking vitamin D supplements improved their condition." Here you learn that Vitamin D could be helpful for you, so you can now go and further research this information. Perhaps once looking at lists of foods that contain vitamin D you conclude that you may be deficient and then make decisions based on factual information, such as adding sardines to your diet or making an appointment with a nutritionist.
Advice is prescriptive. You need to take Vitamin D3. No one other than your doctor will know if you need vitamin D, and taking high doses needs to be monitored by a qualified professional to avoid toxicity (vitamin D cannot be excreted in your urine if you take too much). Another example; you need to exercise five times a week. This advice is not suitable for everyone.
As a side note. Anyone with Ph.D. can be called Dr. This does not mean they are a medical doctor. Check for the letters MD which indicate that the person is a medical doctor, for example, Dr. Permutter MD. Otherwise, you may take advice about nutrition from someone with a Ph.D. in philosophy.
#2: Emotional blackmail by photo
The before and after pictures. Do I need to say more? We are inundated with before and after pictures when we talk about psoriasis online. The reason they make me so angry is that they work! I have fallen prey a few times during the dark times mid-flare and bought these products. People sell their products based on hope. If a product is good enough to clear psoriasis plaques, a pharmaceutical company would have bought the rights to it ages ago. There are 125 million people with psoriasis who will purchase cream for life. That's an impressive market.
#3: A lack of quality text
Often the text that accompanies the before and after photo, or product description is full of warning signs that something is not quite right. Here are some of them...
They use the word cure. There is no cure for Psoriasis. It says so very clearly in the World Health Organisations report of Psoriasis.1 Sometimes this is used as clickbait, and sometimes it is used by people who do not truly understand how the disease works. Either way, if you see the word cure, start to pay more attention to other warning signs.
The author uses the term psoriasis and eczema as if they are the same thing. If this is a soothing moisturizer then fine. If its anything else then pay closer attention. Check the author's qualifications and experience, and remember #1.
Which brings me to point number 4…
#4: If you can only import the product, don't
Most countries have strict guidelines on what healthcare products can be sold within their boundaries. In the U.S this is monitored by the Food and Drug Administration and in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency.
If there is a product that looks like a wonder product, but you can only import it from abroad, then I would be asking questions. This is somewhat topical at the moment as one cream has been doing the rounds this past year in psoriasis support communities on Facebook. People have been sharing their positive results from a ‘natural’ product with before and after photographs. This is an excerpt from the U.K Government website:
“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is warning people who may have purchased a “natural” Chinese herbal medicine, Yiganerjing Cream, as a treatment for skin conditions to stop using it immediately as it has been found to contain an undisclosed steroid and two antifungal ingredients.2”
Yes, that is correct. This natural cream did not state on the ingredients that it contained a steroid and antifungal ingredients. Now, this is incredibly stressful for people who have used the cream, but if you are allergic to any of these ingredients (my sister is highly allergic to antifungal cream), this is incredibly dangerous.
Scientific literacy might sound like something you have to be qualified for, but actually, it is something we all have the skill to do. You need to question everything you read. It does not take long for it to become second nature and if you still don't believe me, have a conversation with a toddler. It won't be long before you her them ask…why? but why?
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