More than 1.6 million Australians suffer from psoriasis, a common skin condition that causes skin cells to build up, forming itchy dry patches on the skin’s surface.
When the cells underneath the skin’s surface die, they rise up and leave the skin looking red, inflamed and often scaly. In some cases, the skin can even take on a silver or grey colour. It’s often extremely irritating and can be painful, with the skin cracking and bleeding in more serious cases.
Despite its prevalence, there can be some confusion about whether it’s contagious, as well as what causes the condition and how to treat it. So Craig Jones, CEO and founder of skincare brand MooGoo, spoke to Starts at 60 about some of the biggest – and most extreme – psoriasis myths.
There’s a common misconception that psoriasis is contagious, with many people wrongly assuming that you can catch the skin condition simply by touching someone who has it – but according to Jones, that’s not the case.
“Psoriasis is not contagious,” he explains. “It’s an immune system problem.”
Like many medical conditions, there is no one explanation when it comes to the exact cause of psoriasis, however a lot of research points the finger at our genes. It is believed that a tenth of the population actually carry the gene that could lead to psoriasis, but only 3 per cent of those will actually develop the skin condition. Other studies suggest that it’s actually our immune system sending wrong messages to our skin cells, causing skin to grow at a faster rate than normal.
“For psoriasis sufferers, this signal gets sent from healthy skin and more skin cells are made, causing flaking and itching in areas,” he adds. “It is not contagious, but it is very distressing for people because of its appearance.”
Jones says there’s research out there that suggests alcohol causes psoriasis flare-ups, but “it’s still not clear if this is a risk factor”.
“Alcohol can cause flare ups in some people, but others say it has no effect at all,” he explains. “A large review of studies into this found that people who drink alcohol have a greater incidence of psoriasis, but whether this was caused by alcohol is unclear.”
Juice cleanses have become increasingly popular over the years, with celebrities and enthusiasts praising its weight loss and health benefits. The latest drink fad to sweep the foodie world is celery juice, with many even claiming it can help with psoriasis, but Jones isn’t as easily convinced.
“Personally, I think people should be free to explore all options, but there are also claims about everything on the internet, so always investigate what works best for you,” he adds.
While a bleach bath won’t destroy your skin, Jones says the efficiency of it is questionable, as bleach therapy is not a traditional treatment for psoriasis.
“Bleach baths are more typically used for eczema than psoriasis,” he explains. “Eczema is different to psoriasis as it’s typically a reaction to something. People add a very small amount of bleach to the water and this helps kill the bacteria that can cause infections in eczema patches.”
“This is not true, but everybody is different and finding what works for you can take some time,” Jones explains.
If you’ve been living with psoriasis, there are small things you can do to try and prevent your condition from getting out of control. He says reducing stress, getting some sun and taking medications that are similar to anti-cancer drugs can help ease psoriasis symptoms.
It’s also important to keep your skin as moist as possible by using creams and moisturisers. Although the temptation can be there to pick or itch at your sores, it’s vital that you try to avoid this as doing so can actually make the condition worse.
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