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The myths about psoriasis

Has anyone ever told you that psoriasis is contagious, or can be caused by a lack of hygiene? These are myths, and there are many more misconceptions around.

Inaccurate information on psoriasis can influence how people perceive the condition and those who have it.

This can be damaging for those with psoriasis, leading them to try unsafe treatments, worry about aspects of their condition which aren’t true, or experience stigma – so it’s vital to share the right information with as many people as possible.

Watch the video above to find out more and read the explanations below for more detail on why these myths about psoriasis are false.

Psoriasis: fact vs. fiction

There is a link between UV light exposure and an increased risk of skin cancer. This risk increases the stronger the dose of light and the more times you’re exposed to it, combined with any pre-existing risk factors you may have.

Commercial sunbeds usually emit mostly ultraviolet-A (UVA) light across your body; the light emitted can be of varying strengths, with different devices and lamps used between businesses, so it can be hard to know what it is you’re getting and how long to stay exposed for.

When medically treated with UVA, you are usually given a topical application (psoralen) to rub into where your psoriasis is, making it more sensitive to the UVA. The light can sometimes be focused just on that area - and regardless, the clinicians will know how to maximise the safety of the procedure and when you should take a break or stop.

Most people receiving medical light treatment are given narrowband UVB, which hasn’t been linked with an increased risk of skin cancer.

Skin problems are the most common and noticeable symptoms, regardless of whether a person has plaque, guttate, pustular, or other types of psoriasis. However, psoriasis is not just a skin disease. It’s caused by immune system abnormalities, which can affect other parts of the body. The nails can become pitted, discoloured, thickened, loosened or raised from the nail bed, or be lost completely, and the joints can become tender, swollen and painful, most commonly in the hands, feet, fingers and toes (which is called psoriatic arthritis).

Psoriasis can affect those who have it psychologically. This can be a direct result of the chronic symptoms (especially intense itch, which is related to stress and depressive symptoms). It could also be an indirect result; avoiding situations where others may react negatively to psoriasis, and a person’s beliefs or experiences of others’ negative judgements of their psoriasis both contribute to stress, worry and anxiety.

Psoriasis is not caused by a lack of hygiene; some environmental factors play a part in flare-ups (such as stress, infections, alcohol and injury to the skin), but bad hygiene isn’t one of them. Washing too often can worsen psoriasis symptoms too, so don’t worry about getting your hands dirty.

While some people with psoriasis may find that diet has a significant impact for them, everyone has a different response. Certain diets or specific foods may work for some, but not others; there is no one size fits all diet. It is also unlikely to clear someone’s psoriasis completely, but rather could be helpful when combined with medical treatment.

Some evidence suggests vegetarian and gluten-free diets may be beneficial for people with psoriasis, but the results of the research aren’t yet certain. If you have psoriasis and you’re wondering whether diet may be having an impact on your skin, it may be helpful to try an elimination diet to see if any specific types of food affect your skin or joints.

Psoriasis can flare up and can be difficult to get rid of, but it does subside on its own sometimes and there are many different treatments available. Through treatment, the symptoms can be managed and reduced or can go into remission. It can’t be completely cured so there is always a risk of it returning – but there are treatments available that can help if it does.

Psoriasis is not contagious. It isn’t viral, bacterial, or fungal, so it can’t be transmitted from person to person like a cold. It is an immune-mediated inflammatory disease, which makes skin cells grow faster than normal, resulting in patches of excess skin and inflammation.

It does have a genetic association, so you have a higher risk of developing psoriasis if you have a family member who has it.

Supporting you to feel comfortable in your own skin