Psoriasis is not contagious. While psoriasis is highly visible, it is not contagious, unlike other persistent skin conditions like shingles, herpes, or impetigo. Psoriasis is a genetic condition and is NOT transmissible from person to person by touching or otherwise.
Many years ago, people mistook psoriasis for leprosy, and those who had it were isolated from their community. About 10 years ago, the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) convened a Capitol Hill Day in which patient advocates were encouraged to have photos shaking hands with members of Congress, to demonstrate that psoriasis is not contagious. (This was similar to the campaign that Princess Diana conducted relative to AIDS patients.)
Origin of the word “psoriasis.” The first syllable of “psoriasis,” or “PSOR” means “itch” in Greek. Typically, the areas of plaque psoriasis on the body are extremely itchy and only get worse when scratched.
Disease severity. I wish people knew that psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are “more than skin deep,” as stated by the NPF. They are immune-mediated diseases, where inflammation can affect the skin, but also the joints, the eyes, the sinuses, and the like.
If a patient is untreated or under-treated, the skin plaques (or lesions) can cover up to 80% of the total body surface. Most people shed skin cells every 28 days or so. Psoriasis lesions occur at locations where skin cells are being shed every 3-4 days. The buildup of skin cells causes silver scales that form into a plaque, which often results in flaking.
Bullying and shaming. Children with psoriasis may have multiple plaques on their face, arms, or legs, which are highly visible. Kids may find it impossible to avoid scratching the plaques to control the itch. Unfortunately, kids with psoriasis can be the subject of persistent bullying by insensitive classmates, or they can be the victims of shaming by name-calling, both in person and on social media. They may be shunned by former friends. All of us should be taught not to comment on any body feature of someone else that they cannot easily change. Unlike the old adage about “sticks and stones,” names can and do hurt people, especially children.
Psoriasis may have severe psychosocial consequences. Many people with psoriasis feel as if they need to cover up to avoid awkward staring and offensive comments. This tends to lead to isolation, loneliness, and depression, and, on rare occasions, suicide. They need to learn how to find ways to relate to others, with and without the disease, to remediate these consequences. These people may need to seek the assistance of a mental health professional.
People with psoriasis may also have concurring conditions. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, it is not uncommon for people who have it to also have one or more of the following diseases: psoriatic arthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or metabolic disease (including diabetes). Many of these diseases require unique medications and separate specialist physicians for adequate treatment.
Genetics has a role in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. If both parents have psoriasis, there is a high likelihood that a child will develop psoriasis. It is less likely, but possible, that a child of one parent with psoriasis may develop psoriasis. It is important that the child’s parents and physician monitor the child’s skin condition over time and be on the lookout for visible signs.
No current psoriasis drug is a panacea for everyone. While there have been a few new drugs developed for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis over the past 20 years, no one drug works for everybody or works forever for anyone, with rare exceptions. Researchers have not yet found a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but certain patients have experienced a remission using certain state-of-the-art drugs now available.
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