Psoriasis affects 125 million people worldwide. If you’re one of the many men and women who experience this condition, you may know how itchy it can make your skin feel, but you may not know what causes psoriasis and how this autoimmune disease can not only affect you on the outside but the inside as well.
There are many myths about the condition, including how it’s caused and what triggers a flare-up. This may be due to a general lack of medical knowledge regarding psoriasis, as noted by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Continue reading to discover the facts regarding this common condition and what you can do to keep it at bay.
Myth 1: Psoriasis Is Contagious
Knowing psoriasis myths and facts is essential for your health. For example, a common myth about psoriasis is that it is contagious, however, psoriasis is caused by an individual’s immune system malfunctioning. Genetics plays a part in psoriasis risk. If your parents have psoriasis, you are at greater risk of having it.
As a genetic-based and/or immune system disease, it’s important to know that you can’t catch psoriasis from someone else and the disease isn’t transmitted through the environment. In a functioning immune system, white blood cells called T-cells attack bacteria and viruses in the body, protecting against disease. When someone has psoriasis, however, the T-cells attack the skin cells. Normally, your skin cells are shed and are replaced approximately every month. However, skin cells with psoriasis complete this growing and shedding cycle in three or four days. These skin cells pile up on the surface of your skin to cause psoriasis.
Myth 2: Psoriasis Is Always Genetic
Some people living with psoriasis have no family history of the disease. On the flip side, if you have genes for psoriasis, you may never develop the disease. Scientists believe that people who do not have a genetic precursor for psoriasis experience triggers that set off the disease. Triggers include:
- Stress: Stress management can help you avoid psoriasis flare-ups. Get enough sleep, watch what you eat and drink, and learn how to relax.
- Skin Injuries: While you can’t live your life in bubble wrap, avoid skin injuries such as sunburn. Use sunscreen and wear protective clothing.
- Infections: Infections such as strep throat can cause flare-ups. Take care of your health and visit your healthcare practitioner when you feel sick.
- Medications: Talk to your healthcare practitioner if the medications you are prescribed can increase the risk of flare-ups. For example, certain types of medications for high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and arthritis can increase the risk of a psoriasis flare-up.
- Weather: Avoid psoriasis and dry skin during the winter by using lotion and drinking plenty of water.
- Tobacco and Alcohol: Avoid using alcohol and tobacco products, which can cause flare-ups.
Be aware of your psoriasis triggers and talk to your healthcare provider about them so you can develop the right plan of action.
Myth 3: Psoriasis Goes Away Without Treatment
Sorting out psoriasis myths and facts is essential so you can get the best psoriasis treatment. One myth is that the disease will go away on its own. Psoriasis symptoms last the rest of your life. Typical psoriasis treatment includes medication, light therapy, and nutrition.
An exception to this is children with guttate psoriasis. After treatment, children often do not have this form of psoriasis again. Guttate psoriasis can sometimes go away within 3–4 months without treatment. Streptococcal infection can trigger guttate psoriasis, and this psoriasis form may recur with another infection. See your doctor if this infection occurs again. Guttate psoriasis may evolve into chronic plaque psoriasis. In fact, about 25% of guttate psoriasis cases develop into chronic plaque psoriasis.
Myth 4: Psoriasis Can’t Develop for Everyone[GW1]
With psoriasis myths and facts, there may be misinformation about who can get psoriasis. While the majority of people who get psoriasis have white skin, people with any skin color can get psoriasis. A study in the United States showed 3.6% of people who get psoriasis are white, 2% are African Americans, and 1.6% are Hispanic. Psoriasis tends to appear different depending on skin color. In fair-skinned people, psoriasis presents as red or pink with a silvery-white scale. For Hispanic people, the color is salmon-colored psoriasis and silvery-white scale. In African Americans, psoriasis can look violet and with a grayscale. For people with darker skin, psoriasis can be dark brown and hard to see.
Myth 5: Psoriasis Is One Disease Type
There’s the common misconception, with psoriasis myths and facts, that psoriasis is one disease. Overall, psoriasis is a disease of a dysfunctional immune system, but a disease that does not have a clear cause. Types of psoriasis include:
- Plaque Psoriasis: Plaque psoriasis is a common form of psoriasis, with about 80% to 90% of people living with psoriasis experiencing plaque psoriasis.
- Scalp Psoriasis: Scalp psoriasis has scaly, red, and bumpy patches with silvery-white scales. Scalp psoriasis characteristics are dandruff-like flaking, a dry scalp, itching, and burning or soreness.
- Nail Psoriasis: People with nail psoriasis have tiny dents in their nails called nail pits, crumbling nails, and nails separating from fingers or toes. White, yellow, or brown discoloration, buildup beneath the nail, and blood under the nail are symptoms.
- Guttate Psoriasis: Guttate psoriasis has a quick onset with characteristics of patches of pink, scaly psoriasis plaques. The lesions are usually over the trunk and limbs. Lesions on the scalp, ears, and face are faint and short-lived.
- Inverse Psoriasis: Inverse psoriasis occurs in skin folds with dry, red, and inflamed areas, causing cracks in the skin prone to yeast and fungal infections.
Myth 6: Psoriasis Is Not a Serious Disease
Without being aware of psoriasis myths and facts, psoriasis can be a life-threatening disease. Psoriasis arthritis (PsA) causes inflammation in other body areas such as the joints and spine. PsA can lead to permanent bone deformity, conjunctivitis, and infection. One in three people who have other psoriasis types may develop PsA, especially those with nail psoriasis. Another psoriasis type, pustular psoriasis, causes white or yellow pus-filled bumps surrounded by reddened and discolored skin.
Pustular psoriasis can develop into generalized pustular psoriasis (GPP). This has symptoms of fever, chills, fatigue, and severe itching. GPP is a medical emergency with changes in heart rate and muscle weakness. Fluid retention and shivering due to impaired thermoregulation are characteristics. Severe skin red discoloration over a large area, skin that sheds in sheets, and extreme pain or itching are symptoms. See a doctor immediately if you have erythrodermic symptoms.
Pact Dermatology specializes in skin disorders and diseases that can affect your health. Specializing in both Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Dermatology, we have the right medical provider to treat your needs when it comes to skincare.
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