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Psoriasis Myths and Facts

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2016.

Myth #1: Psoriasis is contagious

One of the major misunderstandings about psoriasis is that the disease is contagious, and can be passed from person to person. This is completely false.

Psoriasis is a chronic health condition that is caused by a person’s overactive immune system. During a psoriasis flare up, the immune system causes inflammation when it is not needed, which results in too many skin cells being produced before the body has time to shed the old skin cells naturally1. The new skin cells push the old skin cells to the surface of the skin, which causes plaques to form. Plaques are the patches of raised, red, scaly skin that are the most common symptom of psoriasis.

The immune system process that causes plaques is not contagious in any way. It is caused by a combination of the person’s genetic material (DNA that is passed down through families) and triggers in the environment that cause the immune system to overreact2. It is impossible to “catch” psoriasis by coming into contact with a person who has it, or touching the person’s skin.

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Myth #2: Psoriasis is linked to poor hygiene or poor skin care

Another myth about psoriasis is that it is caused by poor hygiene or poor skin care. This is also absolutely false. The immune system reaction that causes psoriasis symptoms has nothing to do with cleanliness or hygiene. Plaques are formed due to inflammation deep within the skin. No amount of skin cleansing will have an effect on the inflammation that causes excess skin cells to be produced1,2.

Myth #3: Psoriasis is just dry skin

Psoriasis plaques may appear to be merely patches of extremely dry skin. Some people may mistakenly believe that applying moisturizer will “cure” the psoriasis symptoms. This is also a myth. While using very thick moisturizers or emollients may temporarily soften skin and relieve some pain and itching, the effects are only short term1. Moisturizers have no effect the processes of inflammation and excess skin cell growth that cause the plaques to form2. Only topical treatments that contain medications to reduce those processes will have an effect on the plaques themselves.

Myth #4 Psoriasis is just a skin condition

Another myth about psoriasis is that it is just a skin condition. Although the most common symptom of psoriasis - plaques - do appear on the skin, the broader effects of the condition are much more wide ranging. For example, the pain and discomfort caused by psoriasis plaques can be disabling. It can make it difficult to carry out everyday activities, to go to work, and to sleep well3.

Living with psoriasis can have a huge emotional impact as well. Due to the myths and misconceptions about the disease among other people, psoriasis patients may have low self-esteem and can feel depressed, anxious, and isolated2.

Having psoriasis is also linked to a higher risk of developing other health conditions.  These conditions include1:

Myth #5: Psoriasis is curable

There is currently no cure for psoriasis. It is a chronic autoimmune condition, which means that it is will not go away completely. Patients with psoriasis may have periods of time when symptoms are worse (called flare-ups), followed by periods of time in which the symptoms are much better (remission), and the cycle will generally continue over time1.

However, there are many different treatment options that are effective in controlling psoriasis symptoms, managing the disease, and improving a psoriasis patient’s quality of life2. Healthcare providers work with patients to find the best possible treatment plan for that patient’s particular symptoms.