6 Facts About Psoriasis

Unlike other autoimmune diseases, psoriasis can be seen on the skin. For that reason, people make assumptions about it. 

They may wonder if psoriasis plaques are contagious or affect people who are unclean. Sometimes, they think a person with psoriasis has done something to cause their skin symptoms. None of these is true.

These misconceptions—and others—about psoriasis can really take a toll on the people living with the condition and affect their moods, self-confidence, and even their relationships. Educating people can help them understand the condition and how it affects people.


6 Myths About Psoriasis

Psoriasis Research

One study reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology finds knowledge of psoriasis is lacking in the United States. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine aimed to determine how many people—including the public at large and medical professionals—continue to believe incorrect information about psoriasis and try to avoid contact with people who have it.

Around 54% of those surveyed said they would not date a person with psoriasis, while 39.4% said they would not shake hands with someone who has psoriasis. Further, 32.3 said they would not want someone with psoriasis in their home. The researchers noted that stereotypes about psoriasis likely contribute to these attitudes, as 26.8% of those surveyed believe psoriasis was not a serious illness, while 27.3% thought the condition was contagious. 

talking about psoriasis
Verywell / Cindy Chung

Despite the fact that there has been a lot of progress in understanding immunology, genetics, and treatment of psoriasis, stereotypes still exist. Of course, people who know someone with psoriasis are less likely to believe or report misinformation. Interestingly, people who had previously heard of psoriasis were less likely to believe stereotypes and were more likely to be more compassionate toward people with the condition.

Here are six facts about psoriasis you may not know.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers suggest that being educated about the condition and having positive interactions with people who have the condition can help dispel misconceptions. 

There Are Five Types of Psoriasis

The most common form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis. It affects from 80% to 90% of the people who have psoriasis. There are four other common types of psoriasis, which include guttate, pustular, inverse, and erythrodermic.

Plaque psoriasis is characterized by thick red patches of skin that have a white or sliver scaly layer. The patches—called plaques—appear anywhere on the body, but they are most commonly seen on the elbows, knees, low back, and scalp. Plaques vary in size. Some are large and cover large areas of the body. Scratching can make patches even more inflamed and cause them to bleed.

The other types of psoriasis are also unique in their symptoms and will require different types of treatment. 

  • Erythrodermic psoriasis often develops in people who have severe plaque psoriasis. It can be life-threatening and requires special treatment.
  • Guttate psoriasis is triggered by a strep throat infection. It is known for causing spots on the body that appear like bug bites.
  • Inverse psoriasis appears in areas of the body that fold, such as between the legs, under the breasts, and in the armpits.
  • Pustular psoriasis causes red blisters containing pus—a collection of white blood cells. Blisters are neither infectious nor contagious.

Psoriasis Isn't Contagious

People worry about "catching" psoriasis through contact, but it's not contagious. Psoriasis is a problem with the immune system, where the body’s defenses overact and cause the body to try to fight off viruses, bacteria, and foreign invaders in and outside the body that do not actually exist.

That means you cannot catch the condition from someone who has it. You cannot catch it by brushing against that person, by swimming in the same water, or by hugging, kissing, or having sex. A person with psoriasis didn’t get the condition from someone else, and they cannot give it to others.

Misconceptions like this one make it harder for people with the condition. People with psoriasis feel shame and discomfort when people stare at their skin plaques or avoid touching them or being around them. They may try to hide skin patches under long clothing so as to avoid such embarrassment.

If you have psoriasis, it is a good idea to educate friends, family, co-workers, and others about the condition. And you if you know someone who has it, make sure that person knows their condition doesn’t affect your opinion of them.

Psoriasis Isn't Caused by Poor Hygiene

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and has nothing to do with poor hygiene. It is neither caused or worsened by poor hygiene. Much like other illnesses of the immune system, people who have the condition have a genetic tendency to develop it.

If someone in your family has psoriasis, you may have the genes to develop the condition. But even with the right genes, there still needs to be something that triggers the disease. This could be anything from a physical illness to a skin injury or even extreme stress, or a certain medication. Once something triggers psoriasis, it is either short-lived or life-long. If it is life-long, there are often treatments to control it.

Psoriasis Isn't Just Dry Skin

Too many people consider psoriasis a dry skin condition. Some think it is a cosmetic condition that can easily be treated with lotions and soaps. This is false.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes raised, inflamed, scaly patches to build on the skin. In people with psoriasis, inflammatory proteins cause skin cells to regenerate and mature at faster rates. The result is skin cells growing too fast, moving up to the skin’s surface, and piling up as white scales (dead cells). This expedited process does not give skin cells enough time to flake off, so they add up and cause patches of excess skin to build up.

About 30% of people with psoriasis may go on to develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA), an inflammatory joint disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling of joints, and whole-body inflammation.

Psoriasis Isn't Curable

There is no cure for psoriasis yet, but treatment can help a person get relief from symptoms associated with the disease. In many cases, psoriasis goes away and flares up again. Specific triggers, such as cold weather, drinking alcohol, smoking, stress, skin injuries, illness, and more, can trigger psoriasis flares. If you have a weakened immune system, you may experience more severe symptoms and have more frequent flares. A weakened immune system occurs in people with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a type of autoimmune arthritis, or those take certain medications, such as those used to treat cancer.

While there is currently no cure for psoriasis, research shows people who take biologic therapies can see significant improvement in skin symptoms and some may even achieve complete clearance of skin symptoms for five years or longer. Biologic therapies are systemic medications, which means they work throughout the body. They are known for targeting parts of the immune system responsible for psoriasis.

If You Have Psoriasis, Your Child May Not

Psoriasis is a hereditary condition, but it does not necessarily mean that you will pass it on to your children. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, around 10% of people inherit one or more of the genes associated with psoriasis. However, less than 3% of the population will actually develop the condition. 

The reasons some people do not develop psoriasis are because they don’t have the right collection of genes and they have not been exposed to specific triggers. This means that both environmental factors and genes play a role in whether a person develops psoriasis.

This also means that just because you have psoriasis does not mean your child will develop the condition. Their risk for psoriasis is increased, but only if other risk factors are present and trigger the disease.

Nothing is certain and information on genetics is based on risk statistics. Plenty of women with psoriasis have healthy babies that grow up without health problems and never develop psoriasis.

A Word From Verywell            

Education is an important tool in understanding psoriasis and addressing misconceptions about it. When people don’t know enough, they make insensitive remarks and give misguided advice, which can be frustrating and lonely for those living with the condition. The more you understand, the more information you can provide to loved ones who can be a valuable source of assistance and support.

Now that you know what is true and what isn’t about psoriasis, you can make smart choices about it and educate loved ones about what psoriasis truly is and how it affects you.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pearl RL, Wan MT, Takeshita J, et al. Stigmatizing attitudes toward persons with psoriasis among laypersons and medical students. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 Jun;80(6):1556-1563. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2018.08.014 

  2. National Psoriasis Foundation. Plaque psoriasis. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis/types/plaque

  3. Capon F. The genetic basis of psoriasis. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec; 18(12): 2526. doi:10.3390/ijms18122526

  4. National Psoriasis Foundation. The immune system and psoriasis. https://www.psoriasis.org/researchers/science-of-psoriasis/immune-system

  5. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriatic arthritis.

  6. Laio W. National Psoriasis Foundation. A quest to cure psoriatic disease. https://www.psoriasis.org/advance/quest-cure-psoriatic-disease

  7. National Psoriasis Foundation. Genes and psoriasis. https://www.psoriasis.org/research/genes-and-psoriatic-disease

  8. Prieto-Pérez R, Cabaleiro T, Daudén E, et al. Genetics of psoriasis and pharmacogenetics of biological drugs. Autoimmune Dis. 2013;2013:613086. doi:10.1155/2013/613086

By Lana Barhum
Lana Barhum has been a freelance medical writer since 2009. She shares advice on living well with chronic disease.