29th October is World Psoriasis Day. The theme for 2018 is “Treat Psoriasis Seriously”.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition which severe itching and redness of the skin. Known to be an autoimmune condition, a condition in which the body’s immune cells attack the healthy cells. This condition affects approximately 2 – 3 % of the world’s population. But unlike diabetes and cancer, there is not much awareness about the condition, which is one of the reasons why people do not treat this condition seriously. So this World Psoriasis day, let’s debunk some of the common myths on psoriasis and spread awareness about it.
Common myths and facts about psoriasis
Myth #1: Psoriasis is caused due to poor hygiene.
Fact: It is one of the most common misconceptions that psoriasis occurs due to poor hygiene. It is an immune system disorder that has nothing to do with hygiene. However, there are certain triggers that can worsen the condition and influence the course of the disease. These include poor diet, skin injury, alcohol intake, obesity, certain medications, hormonal imbalance, stress, and infections.
Myth #2: Psoriasis is a skin disease.
Fact: No, psoriasis is not just a cosmetic problem. In reality, it is a disease of the immune system that causes abnormal growth of the skin cells. It takes around 30 days for a normal skin cell to mature and shed. But if you have a psoriatic condition, the skin cells mature in 3- 4 days and pile up forming scaly lesions, a tell-a-tale symptom of psoriasis.
Moreover, around 30 -50% of people suffering from psoriasis can develop psoriatic arthritis. It is a condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in and around the joints. Hence, skin inflammation in psoriasis is just a tip of an iceberg.
Myth #3: Psoriasis is a contagious condition.
Fact: Psoriasis, especially in its moderate or severe form, can cause thick, red, scaly patches of skin to appear, which makes it look like a contagious disease. However, it is NOT contagious which means that you cannot catch the disease even if you touch, hug, kiss or shared food with a person suffering from psoriasis.
Myth #4: Summer is the ONLY season that causes flaring-up of psoriasis.
Fact: Many people think that the symptoms of psoriasis flare-up only during summers but it is wrong. The hot and humid climate during summers can worsen the symptoms, however, dry weather in winters can make things worse. The cold winds, low humidity, wet weather, and less sunlight can make the skin dry and itchy, causing the symptoms to flare-up. Hence, it is advised to take care of the skin irrespective of the season although winters and summers require special care.
Myth #5: Psoriasis occurs only in adults.
Fact: Most people are of the view that psoriasis occurs only in adults, but it is not true. Even children can suffer from psoriasis. According to the American National Psoriasis Foundation, approximately 20,000 children under the age of 10 are diagnosed with the condition every year.
Myth #6: Psoriasis is NOT an inherited disease.
Fact: While many patients with no family history develop psoriasis, there is a genetic link in approximately 40 – 60% of patients with the condition, which means it can be inherited. According to the American National Psoriasis Foundation, the risk of a child developing psoriasis is 10% if only one parent suffers from the condition. If both the parents suffer from psoriasis, then the chances of the child developing psoriasis are around 50%.
Myth #7: Psoriasis causes only skin-related symptoms.
Fact: The effects of psoriasis are not just skin deep. The skin patches can be painful, itchy which ups the risk of cracks and bleeding, thereby leading to infections. Moreover, people suffering from psoriasis go through emotional turmoil as they have to deal with stigma, anxiety, and depression, which affects their mental well being and also impact their work, sex life, and relationships. Moreover, if the condition is not properly managed, it can cause or aggravate serious health complications such as diabetes, vision problems, liver disease, and heart disease.
Myth #8: Psoriasis can be easily diagnosed.
Fact: The symptoms of many skin conditions are similar, which makes it difficult to diagnose the root cause of the disease. The early symptoms of psoriasis such as redness and itching of the skin are similar to that of eczema or atopic dermatitis. This sometimes makes the condition difficult to diagnose psoriasis. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis of the condition.
Myth #9: Psoriasis can be cured.
Fact: There is no complete cure for psoriasis, however; it can be treated. The treatment is focused to ease itching and inflammation of the skin, remove excess dead skin cells and stop the abnormal skin growth. The common treatment options for psoriasis include light therapy, oral, topical and injectable medications.
Myth #10: Psoriasis can be prevented.
Fact: Yes and No. There are certain risk factors for psoriasis and managing them can help you to prevent the condition. This includes managing your weight, controlling your stress level, limiting the intake of alcohol and quitting smoking. However, there is a genetic link to the disease, which makes it NOT an entirely preventable condition.
Psoriasis is a serious disease which if diagnosed early can help in managing the condition. However, most people suffering from the condition keep it under wraps due to the fear of stigma associated with psoriasis. So knowing the facts and debunking the myths can help people with psoriasis to avoid ignorance and stigma and treat the condition appropriately in consultation with the clinician.
(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)