August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month. Psoriasis affects about 2% of the population of the United States, but there are many misconceptions about this condition. Read on for more information about common psoriasis myths and learn the facts.
- “Psoriasis is contagious.” Psoriasis is not contagious. You cannot get psoriasis from touching, swimming in a pool with, or having sex with someone who has psoriasis. Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes people to make new skin cells in days instead of weeks. This causes the skin cells to pile up on the surface of the skin and form thick scales. We are still trying to determine exactly why psoriasis develops, but we know it is not contagious. We know that the immune system and genetics are involved. In psoriasis, an overactive or dysregulated immune system causes the body to make new skin cells more often. Psoriasis tends to run in families, and people with certain genes are more likely to develop psoriasis.
- “Psoriasis is just a skin condition.” Psoriasis is not limited to just the skin. Psoriasis can affect the joints and nails. It has been linked to an increased risk of developing other medical conditions. Thirty percent of patients with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis, which can manifest as swollen, red, painful or stiff joints. It is very important to treat psoriatic arthritis, as it can be disabling if it progresses. About half of patients with psoriasis will have nail changes, such as white, yellow or brown discoloration, crumbling or rough nails, tiny dents in the nails called “pitting,” and nails lifting so they are no longer attached. Studies also show that patients with psoriasis are more likely to develop other medical problems. These include depression, vision problems, gum disease, inflammatory bowel disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.
- “Psoriasis is curable.” Unfortunately, there is no cure for psoriasis. It is a lifelong disease, with one exception. A type of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis, which often develops in children after an infection (such as strep throat), may go away and not return. However, most people with psoriasis will deal with it for the rest of their lives. There may be periods where they have minimal symptoms, and then other periods when they have bad flares. The good news is that there is a lot of research and new medications for psoriasis. Some of these medications may keep some patients very clear, or even completely clear, for a long time.
- Treatments for psoriasis include psoriasis-friendly skincare, avoiding potential triggers, topical medications, phototherapy and systemic medications. Potential triggers that can cause new-onset psoriasis or a flare of pre-existing psoriasis include illnesses such as upper respiratory infections, medications such as prednisone and skin injury (surgical incisions or trauma). Additional triggers include drinking alcohol frequently or in excess, smoking, dry cold weather and sunburns. Your physician will recommend the best treatment for you.
- Psoriasis home remedies may provide some relief. Some home or over-the-counter remedies include coal tar, hydrocortisone and salicylic acid. Because coal tar can be irritating, it is best to apply it to a small area of skin to test the product first. Hydrocortisone is a mild steroid. Salicylic acid can help soften the scales from psoriasis. Other over-the-counter ingredients that can help soften the scales include ammonium lactate and urea. To get the best result from the scale softening products, apply them after a warm (not hot) bath for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Skincare Tips. For psoriasis patients, we recommend keeping the skin very moisturized, but avoid scented products and detergents. Scents could irritate the skin and worsen psoriasis. A fragrance-free cream or ointment is best.
Make a Dermatology appointment with Ochsner Health.