Why Psoriasis Is Not Contagious

Educating others about your condition

In This Article

People with psoriasis learn very early on that their disease is not contagious. In other words, it cannot be spread from person to person in the way some skin conditions can. However, people who don’t know much about psoriasis may worry that they can "catch" it from you. As frustrating as this may be, you can usually set them right by offering education on the causes and nature of psoriasis and other psoriatic diseases.

Understanding Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition. The most common form, known as plaque psoriasis, is characterized by dry, red patches of skin covered with silvery-white scales (called plaques). Other types of psoriasis can cause pus-filled blisters, peeling skin, tear-shaped rashes, and unsightly nail changes.

At its heart, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system will suddenly go haywire and attack its own cells. The primary targets of the assault are skin cells called keratinocytes, which account for 90% of the cells in the outer layer of skin (epidermis).

When this happens, the resulting inflammation will accelerate the production of skin cells, causing them to build up faster than they can be shed.

Autoimmune disorders are not contagious. They are believed caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that somehow "trip up" the immune response.

While an infection like strep throat may trigger acute symptoms, known as flares, psoriasis is in no way infectious.

Similar Skin Conditions

Psoriasis plaques can vary in size, shape, severity, and location. Because of its wide variation in appearance, people will often mistake psoriasis for contagious conditions, such as:

Psoriasis can also be confused with skin conditions like tinea versicolor, pityriasis rubra pilaris, and squamous cell skin cancer—none of which are contagious, although many people believe them to be. 

Common Misconceptions

Sadly, misconceptions about psoriasis have led to the stigmatization of the disease. Even if people know that psoriasis is not contagious, they will often believe that it is "caused" by things you can control, such as hygiene, weight, or even a vaccination you may have received.

Many of these beliefs are patently untrue, while others have only the slimmest relationship to truth. While obesity, for example, can increase the risk of inverse psoriasis (a type characterized by the appearance of lesions in skin folds), you can develop the disease even if you are slim.

While certain medications, including vaccines, may cause an acute flare, they do not "cause" psoriasis. Rather, they trigger the disease in people with a genetic predisposition for psoriasis. Any number of other triggers can do the same.

Having psoriasis does not mean you are "unhygienic" or "dirty." Neither does it mean you are unhealthy or not taking care of yourself. With that being said, failing to properly care for your skin or seek the appropriate treatment will almost invariably lead to the persistence or worsening of your condition.

Coping Tips

One of the most difficult aspects of psoriasis is the emotional distress it can cause. It is not uncommon for people with psoriasis to isolate themselves, avoid social situations, or experience anxiety and depression because of their disease.

Often the best way to overcome these feelings is to educate yourself and others about psoriasis. By becoming an expert in the disease, you can answer any questions people may have about the causes and risks of psoriasis.

When educating others, stick to the major points, namely that:

  • Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease.
  • Psoriasis is not a virus, bacteria, or fungus you can "catch."
  • You cannot get psoriasis from touching or kissing.
  • It cannot be spread through sex.
  • You cannot get it from swimming pools or toilet seats.
  • You cannot get it from sharing clothes, utensils, towels, toys, or personal care items.

Doing this can help bridge any embarrassment others may feel and connect with them on a more intimate level. This is especially true with sexual partners who might already be concerned about infection. By discussing your condition honestly, you can open the door to a broader discussion about safer sex in general.

Not only does it dispel the fear and ignorance that fuel stigma, but it can also help you build a support network of people who fully understand what you are going through.

If faced with any falsehoods about the disease, try not to react or lash out. Give people the benefit of doubt, and remember that you once had to learn about the disease yourself.

A Word From Verywell

When educating others about psoriasis, try to keep it simple. If needed, you can have a brochure on hand to help navigate some of the more intricate complexities about the disease. Doing this can be an empowering experience, but what you share about your condition is, of course, ultimately up to you. Regardless, remember that there is no "fault" to having psoriasis or "blame" to shoulder.

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