Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person’s overactive immune system causes the abnormal and rapid growth of skin cells, resulting in psoriasis’ tell-tale scaly, silvery-red patches of skin. These patches, called lesions, are often itchy and sometimes even painful. The lesions can crack and bleed, increasing the risk of infection and scarring.
Psoriasis is a fairly common condition affecting between 2 and 5 percent of the U.S. population. That is between 8 million and 16 million people! Despite the common occurrence of psoriasis, misconceptions and stigma persist. In this article, we will set the record straight.
1. Psoriasis and Eczema Are the Same
Despite the fact that many people mistakenly use the terms interchangeably, psoriasis and eczema are wholly different conditions. They do, however, share some of the same symptoms, such as itchy skin. Here are some eczema vs psoriasis differences:
- Eczema is more commonly found in babies or young children. Psoriasis can occur at any age but usually begins between the ages of 20 to 30 or 50 to 60 years.
- People tend to grow out of their eczema or it may clear up over time. Psoriasis is a lifelong condition for which no cure currently exists.
- The most common form of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis, generally appears as red, scaly patches of dry skin with an overlying silver scale that may crack and bleed. Eczema patches are usually brown-gray and may include pustules.
2. Psoriasis Only Affects The Skin
Many people mistakenly believe psoriasis starts and ends with the skin. The condition is due to an inflammatory response triggered by the body’s immune response — and this inflammation is systemic, meaning it affects the whole body. Symptoms and co-occurring conditions due to inflammation can affect all parts of the body.
For example, between 30 percent and 50 percent of people with psoriasis of the skin develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA). PsA causes inflammation of the joints and connective tissues. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, and swelling in and around the joints. People with psoriasis are also at greater risk of other serious health concerns such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other inflammatory conditions.
What’s more, people with psoriasis report that their condition has a weighty psychological and emotional impact. Depression is more common among people with psoriasis. Stigma around psoriasis and low self-esteem due to visible skin lesions are common contributing factors to the psychosocial toll of psoriasis.
3. Psoriasis Is Contagious
Psoriasis is not contagious. A person can’t catch the disease by being close to or by touching someone with psoriasis. The exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, but it’s believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is at play. A family history of psoriasis in approximately 40 to 60 percent of cases suggests that a person can be genetically predisposed to psoriasis, though that doesn’t mean that an individual will necessarily develop the condition.
4. Psoriasis Is Curable
Psoriasis is a chronic, or life-long, disease. There is currently no cure for psoriasis, but research and development is ongoing, and the condition is treatable and manageable. A solid treatment team can help a person with psoriasis find effective treatment options ranging from systemic anti-inflammatory medications to topical creams and ointments. There are also several lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and regular exercise, that can often help control psoriasis symptoms.