9 Things Never to Say to Someone with Psoriasis

By Claire Gillespie
April 15, 2021

Ask anybody with psoriasis, and they’ve probably heard some pretty outrageous things. Psoriatic disease affects about 125 million people around the world (that’s more than 2 percent of the population); but, unless you have it, you probably don’t know much about it. Cue numerous myths, misconceptions, ridiculous statements, and downright insensitive questions.

Knowledge is power. It’s also compassion and understanding. So, let’s set the record straight on psoriasis. Here are some things people have said to me about my psoriasis that I wish they hadn’t.

What’s Wrong with Your Skin?

Um, nothing. I have a chronic autoimmune condition that shows up on my skin at random (and, sometimes, not-so-random) times, causing me discomfort, mental anguish, and a whole lot of anxiety. But there’s nothing wrong with me, just like there’s nothing wrong with someone who has any other illness. I got dealt a bad hand when it came to immune-system function, that’s all.

At Least You Can Cover It Up with Long Sleeves

Yes, I can. But it doesn’t make sense to wear gloves 24/7 when it spreads across the backs of my hands, or a veil when it shows up on my face. Long sleeves might make my psoriasis less obvious to other people, but it’s still there.

Aren’t Steroids Bad for You?

Okay, so there are some side effects to long-term steroid use. I stopped using topical steroids a few years ago because the skin on my hands became noticeably thinner from years of steroid application. I just have to live with that. But anybody who’s using steroids for their psoriasis will have thought about it carefully and weighed all the pros and cons. All prescribed medications come with possible side effects, and unless you’re our doctor or pharmacist, we don’t need you to remind us of them.

It’s Just a Skin Rash, Right?

It’s actually not a rash at all. And while some people have a mild form of the disorder that doesn’t have much of an impact on their daily lives, there’s always the worry that their condition will suddenly get worse. Take my word for it—it really can go from one end of the spectrum to the other practically overnight.

Psoriasis is also associated with some pretty serious health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. And 30 percent of people with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Oh, and did I mention that people with psoriasis have an increased risk of depression? That’s quite a lot to contend with for something that’s “just a rash.”

Can I Catch It?

This is possibly the worst thing you can say to someone with psoriasis. If I’m going through a flare, I’m feeling anxious and embarrassed already. Being made to feel like a superspreader of some contagious skin disease is guaranteed to make me feel 100 times worse.

No, you can’t catch psoriasis. It’s a chronic skin condition caused by immune dysfunction—not a virus.

I Thought Only Women (or Old People) Got Psoriasis

It’s not clear where the crazy rumor started that only women get psoriasis, but it’s simply not true. Studies show that men and women are about equally likely to develop the condition.

And it’s not just for middle-aged people and senior citizens, either. Although there’s a peak in incidence in the 50 to 60 age group, most people first get psoriasis in their 20s. In fact, it can affect all ages, even young kids.

It’s Just Like Eczema, Isn’t It?

To the untrained eye, maybe. And there can be an overlap between the two skin disorders. But psoriasis and eczema differ in appearance, the level of itch (many people with psoriasis don’t experience itch at all), and where it shows up on the body. Psoriasis is commonly found on the scalp, knees, and elbows, whereas eczema is usually found on the inside of the arms, the backs of the knees, and in other skin folds.

Are You Sure It’s Psoriasis?

When most people think of psoriasis, they picture patches of inflamed skin covered in scales. And yes, plaque psoriasis is by far the most common type—it affects around 80 percent of people with psoriasis.

But psoriasis comes in various forms, such as guttate psoriasis, which presents as small, teardrop-shaped spots and tends to affect children and young adults, and pustular psoriasis, a rarer form, which involves widespread inflammation and small pus-filled blisters.

The types may all look different, but believe us when we tell you it’s psoriasis.

At Least It’s Not [Another, More Serious Illness]

Believe me, I’m grateful for all the ways in which my body functions well, and I don’t take any of that for granted. But sometimes, I just have to allow myself to feel sorry for myself, dwell on all the ways that psoriasis makes my life just a bit more difficult, and maybe even shed a few tears. Allowing myself to feel those emotions might not alleviate my psoriasis symptoms, but denying myself that process is likely to do more harm than good.

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