Tackling Common Myths About Psoriasis
Psoriasis is an immune-related skin disease that affects more than 7.5 million adults in the United States.1 Discover the answers to some common psoriasis questions and misconceptions below—including characteristics, common signs, and potential methods for managing symptoms.*
Categorized as a long-term chronic skin condition, psoriasis most commonly occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp, legs, face, palms, lower back, and soles of the feet. Psoriasis is marked by visible inflammation and raised sections of painful red, itchy, and scaly patches covered in thick, silvery-white scales. With signs and symptoms that can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions (such as eczema), it’s important to seek the help of a dermatologist if you suspect you may have psoriasis.
Facts About Psoriasis
- Psoriasis is a skin disease that affects over 3% of American adults (at least 7.5 million people in the U.S.).1
- Psoriasis has varied signs and symptoms that sometimes cause it to be confused with other skin conditions, such as eczema.
- Psoriasis is not contagious and can affect anyone, including both children and adults.
- If you believe you may have psoriasis, it’s important to seek the help of a board-certified dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment plan.
Myth 1: Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis Are the Same for Every Person
When it comes to psoriasis, there are a number of symptoms that can vary from one person to another. For example, certain symptoms (such as small, scaly spots) are more commonly seen in children. Psoriasis patches can cover both large or small areas, depending on the individual, and may include uncomfortable itching, burning, or stinging.
According to the Journal of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis, psoriasis can affect anyone at any age, but symptoms typically begin around the ages of 15 to 25.2 Some factors that may impact these symptoms from person to person include the type of psoriasis being experienced, the location, and the amount of psoriasis. To learn more, read CeraVe’s guide on the causes and appearance of psoriasis.
Myth 2: Psoriasis Is the Same as Eczema
According to one Australian study, many children with psoriasis were first incorrectly diagnosed by their primary care doctors as having another skin condition, like eczema.3 While it’s true that eczema and psoriasis share a number of similarities in their appearance, a dermatologist’s trained eye will be able to decipher the important differences between these two entirely separate conditions.
Two of the primary differences to keep in mind are the level of itchiness and the location. For example, psoriasis commonly affects areas like the scalp, elbows, and knees—and although eczema can also affect these areas—it most often occurs in the folds of the elbows and knees. Psoriasis usually results in more mild itching when compared with eczema, which can cause itching that is very intense.
Myth 3: Psoriasis Only Affects One Area of the Body
Psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly affects the scalp, knees, elbows, lower back, legs, face, palms, and soles of the feet. Furthermore, it’s possible to experience psoriasis in more than one location at a time. Psoriasis often occurs in “cycles,” with symptoms that flare up and then subside for a period of time. The location of psoriasis on the body may also be impacted by the type of psoriasis being experienced.
Myth 4: There’s Only One Type of Psoriasis
Contrary to what some people may believe, there are actually several types of psoriasis. The five primary types are: plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, and erythrodermic psoriasis. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about 80 to 90 percent of people affected by psoriasis have plaque psoriasis—making it the most common type.4 The best way to decipher which type of psoriasis you may be experiencing is to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Myth 5: Psoriasis Is Contagious
This is one misconception that is entirely false. Psoriasis is not contagious and is not spread from person to person. Keep reading to discover what researchers believe the main causes of psoriasis may be.
Myth 6: Psoriasis Is Caused by Your Environment
Doctors and researchers have not yet confirmed the root cause of psoriasis. However, it is believed that psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that results in a rapid overgrowth of skin cells. It hasn’t been determined what exactly causes this immune-related problem to occur, but some experts believe there are environmental and genetic factors at play.
So whereas psoriasis is not specifically caused by one’s environment, it may potentially influence it. Individuals with psoriasis often experience an environmental trigger that brings about symptoms, which can include: smoking, dry or cold weather conditions, skin injuries, overconsumption of alcohol, stress, infections, or certain medications.
Myth 7: There’s No Treatment Available for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is considered a chronic skin condition, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t treatment options available. By working with your doctor, it’s entirely possible to construct an effective treatment plan to fit your needs over time.
Some of the potential options that your dermatologist may recommend include moisturizers to help relieve dryness, hydrocortisone creams to help minimize itchiness, and scale softeners such as salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid that is commonly found in products for psoriasis, due to the fact that it may help soften and eliminate scales.5 They may also recommend certain prescription medications to those with more severe types of psoriasis.
To learn more about psoriasis, read CeraVe’s guide on the different types of psoriasis and how it’s different from eczema.
*This article is provided for informational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. If you believe you may have psoriasis or have questions about your condition and treatment options, consult your dermatologist or doctor.
- “Psoriasis - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 2 May 2020.
- “About Psoriasis.” National Psoriasis Foundation, 2021.
- “What’s the Difference between Eczema and Psoriasis?” American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2021.
- “Plaque Psoriasis: Causes, Triggers and Treatment.” National Psoriasis Foundation, 2021.
- “What Psoriasis Treatments Are Available without a Prescription?” American Academy of Dermatology Association, 2021.
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