Things You Want to Know But Are Afraid to Ask

Is psoriasis contagious? - that's probably one of the most popular questions one can hear about psoriasis and the first thing someone might wonder when they see a flaky person. People are afraid of rashes and skin infections, and since psoriasis often looks like some sort of allergy, it's hard not to push people away.

Some people are afraid to ask questions about psoriasis, so here it is -- things you want to know about psoriasis but you're afraid to ask.

Is psoriasis contagious?

Psoriasis is often treated like leprosy. Some people might be afraid of touching the affected places or touching a person affected by psoriasis, others might go even further and move away in public transportation or other public places.

But here's a spoiler: you can't catch psoriasis by touching someone who has it. And in case you're wondering you also can't catch it by having sex with someone who has it.

What causes psoriasis?

Psoriasis doesn't have as its primary cause an infection or inflammation of the skin. It doesn't 'just happen' to someone because of some sort of trigger without that person having the genetic foundation that leads to psoriasis. Though the symptoms are visible on the skin and nails, the illness has to do with the immune system, and is an autoimmune disease. Have you ever met a person with celiac disease (gluten intolerant)? Their illness also has to do with the immune system, and no one thinks it's gross, right?

The immune system of the person with psoriasis acts at the wrong times and instead of fighting the actual diseases the body attacks its own cells. As a result, the affected skin cells react by growing way faster than normal skin which makes them pile up and die, causing thick, red and scaly patches. It's happening to everyone's skin, just on a very slower and smaller scale.

How do people get psoriasis?

While there are many theories about the origin of psoriasis, there is no straight answer. Some scientists claim that certain genes are responsible, therefore it can often affect a few family members. I know what you're thinking now, as I personally was asked this on several occasions... if I get together with someone affected by psoriasis, will my kids have it too? The answer is not necessarily. Would you check someone's entire family medical history for every disease, especially when it comes to predispositions? Probably not.

Does psoriasis ever go away?

Once something triggers psoriasis, it becomes a long-lasting condition. Unfortunately, it doesn't ever fully go away, but it can be controlled with medication and proper therapy.

The condition is genetic, and it has nothing to do with bad hygiene, bad diet or alcohol. I'm often told not to bite my nails, while in fact, I've never done it – my nails are simply affected by psoriasis.

Not all psoriasis types look the same. While the majority of images online show the big flaky patches – known as plaque psoriasis, someone's skin doesn't need to look like this. Some people only have it on their buttocks, others only under their hair, while there are many people also affected by guttate psoriasis – small red bumps. It can often bleed or get white, but it doesn't mean that it will stay like this forever.

Is psoriasis painful?

Yes, psoriasis might hurt a lot and it also itches. The itch itself may have a bigger impact on quality of life than the visible effect of the disease. When it comes to pain each person experiences it differently. Some feel like the skin is burning, others say it feels like they're being bitten by hundreds of ants. If someone is also affected by psoriasis arthritis, they will be experiencing chronic pain in their joints, along with swollen fingers and toes.

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