Busting 5 Psoriasis Myths
It seems everyone has an opinion about psoriasis: how to treat it, how to cope with it, and how to cure it. Unfortunately, often, unless someone lives with the disease or is a dermatologist who sees psoriasis patients, they are wrong about it. After living with psoriasis for 15 years, I still need to educate my friends and family on exactly what psoriasis is and how it affects me.
So, let’s bust some myths and start to get everyone on the same page.
While most people may only see the psoriasis plaques, there is a lot more going on inside your body. Psoriasis is a chronic disease driven by an overactive immune system. Inflammation might be running rampant if you are in a flare or your particular case is hard to manage. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, simply having psoriasis puts you at greater risk for other diseases, including cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, chronic kidney disease, uveitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and psoriatic arthritis.
Mental health challenges also commonly accompany psoriasis, but they’re often dismissed. People with psoriasis may experience depression and anxiety at a higher rate than those in the general population. Be sure to seek help from your doctor if you’re struggling with your mental health.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and there is no cure. While some of us with psoriasis are able to use over-the-counter medication to help ease symptoms, others may cycle through many treatments to find the one that works for them. These can include light therapy, topical medications and steroids, and biologics. I had to try five different biologics before landing on the one that finally controlled my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Putting lotion on plaques just doesn’t work for a treatment, but I wish it did!
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about one-third of people with psoriasis developed it before age 20. My son was diagnosed at age 4 with psoriasis and age 5 with psoriatic arthritis. Our family knows firsthand that psoriasis does not discriminate with age. Now age 23, my son doesn’t remember life without psoriasis. My own psoriasis diagnosis occurred in my late 20s. Unfortunately, you can develop psoriasis at any stage of life.
It is true some people find eliminating certain foods or eating a specific anti-inflammatory diet helps manage their psoriasis. And that’s great news for them. But, if you’re like me, diet does little to calm the plaques. After checking with my doctor first, I’ve tried going gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian, and so many other diets. Some of them helped me have more energy, but none actually helped my psoriasis. I remain optimistic that finding the right combination of foods will help, but there is no data showing psoriasis can actually be cured by sticking to a certain diet.
Psoriasis might look like other infectious diseases, but it is not contagious. I received a frantic call once from my son’s daycare telling me he had chicken pox. I knew that wasn’t the case and it was his psoriasis. Even after correcting the staff and educating them about psoriasis and its symptoms, they still would not let my son come back to daycare until we received a written note from his pediatrician saying he wasn’t contagious. On the upside, with this doctor’s note in his permanent file, everyone moving forward knew he didn’t have “cooties” that other kids could catch.
There will always be a need to educate some members of your circle about what it is like to really live with psoriasis. Most of the time, their misinformation comes from a place of genuine concern and a real desire to help you. Sometimes, though, it feels like I have to bust myths left and right. It can be exhausting having to explain it over and over, but your friends and family likely want to support you however they can and will gladly take the lessons to heart.