Why Psoriasis Is Not Contagious

Educating others about your condition

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If you have psoriasis, you know that it's not contagious. This condition cannot be spread from person to person. 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 put them at ease by offering education on the causes and nature of psoriasis and other psoriatic diseases.


6 Myths About Psoriasis

Understanding Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition. The most common form is known as plaque psoriasis, In fair-skinned people, plaque psoriasis is characterized by dry, red patches of skin covered with silvery-white scales (called plaques). In people of color, it could look salmon-colored, violet, dark brown, and sometimes the scale can be gray.

Other types of psoriasis can cause pus-filled blisters, peeling skin, tear-shaped rashes, and nail changes.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system will attack its own keratinocytes, which are skin cells that account for 90% of the cells in the (epidermis (outer layer of skin). 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 to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors that somehow "trip up" the immune response.

Two women talking at cafe

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. 

The Truth About Psoriasis

Sadly, misconceptions about psoriasis have led to the stigmatization of the disease. Some people may 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 psoriasis, you can develop the disease even if you are slim.

Certain medications, including vaccines, may cause an acute flare, but they do not "cause" psoriasis. A number of other triggers, like stress, 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 may 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 learning about your condition, 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 let them know that it's ok to ask you about your skin condition—and about their own risk. Discussing your experience with psoriasis can dispel the fear and ignorance that fuel stigma, and it can also help you build a support network of people who understand what you are going through.

Talking about your psoriasis with potential sexual partners can also open the door to a broader discussion about safer sex in general.

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.

5 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. Cordoro K, Alexis A. Psoriasis: Causes. AAD.org.

  2. Lehmberg J, Roper B, Omouryi E, et al. Skin plaques mimicking psoriasis. J Pediat. 167(4):937-37.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.06.072

  3. Halioua B, Sid-Mohand D, Roussel ME, et al. Extent of misconceptions, negative prejudices and discriminatory behaviour to psoriasis patients in France. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 30(4):650-4. doi:10.1111/jdv.13095

  4. Jensen P, Skov L. Psoriasis and obesity. Dermatology. 232(6):633-639. doi:10.1159/000455840

  5. Tuckman A. The potential psychological impact of skin conditionsDermatol Ther (Heidelb). 7(Suppl 1):53–57. doi:10.1007/s13555-016-0169-7

By Ruth Jessen Hickman, MD
Ruth Jessen Hickman, MD, is a freelance medical and health writer and published book author.