Psoriasis Isn’t Contagious

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month and it has spurred me to recall some of my interesting experiences with psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, i.e. it is caused by the body’s immune system malfunctioning.  It isn’t an infection.  Even though psoriasis is not infectious, the problem is that it can look pretty scary to someone who is unaware of what psoriasis is.  Just take a look at the pic of famous model CariDee English above. Someone seeing that hand is going to instinctively take a couple of steps back and think “whoa, WTF!”  In fact, I purposely chose that pic as the header as I’m sure some readers clicked on the link when they saw that hand and thought “WTF!”.

I was first diagnosed with psoriasis in 1994, I didn’t have to worry about negative reactions from members of the public as the lesions were confined to my scalp.  However over time it gradually spread, and just before I started on biologics (which cleared up the majority of my psoriasis) I had a lot of lesions on my back, lower back & butt, arms and legs.  Fortunately I did not get it on my hands (except for one small spot), unlike CariDee.

Did you know that most public swimming pools have a bold notice at the entrance, which invariably states that “swimming by those with an infectious disease is prohibited”?Actually, the logic is sound, i.e. that anyone with an infectious disease should not be swimming with others.  However invariably the intent of the sign is to stop anyone with a visible disease from swimming.  Why is that?  Well as the saying goes “out of sight – out of mind”, i.e. if we can’t see it then we usually don’t worry about it.

As this report shows, invariably people with the infectious diseases that matter, i.e. the ones which chlorine will not kill, will ignore the warnings and swim anyway.  Diarrhea is pretty high on that list.  I saw a great example of this in China, where the “politically correct” movement is yet to catch up.  At the swimming pool of a 5 star hotel in Beijing, they displayed a prominent sign at the entrance to the pool prohibiting anyone with “a skin disease” from swimming.  So even though psoriasis is not contagious I was not allowed to swim.  I can tell you that walking beside the pool with my shirt off I got a lot of nasty looks.  Meanwhile Mr. Wang who has had rampant diarrhea for the past 3 days, is busy swimming as many lengths as he can while holding his cheeks tightly together before he can’t stand it any longer, and has to do a quick penguin walk to the toilets (hoping that nothing is dribbling down his leg) to relieve himself in all its’ explosive glory.

I do find it ironic that the person most at risk of catching a disease is not Joe Public, but the psoriasis sufferer who is on biologics or methotrexate, and thus has a suppressed immune system.

So for psoriasis awareness month I would be very grateful if those without psoriasis could become more “aware” of what psoriasis is.  The next time you see someone such as CariDee above with what looks like a nasty rash, rather than thinking she has some wicked venereal disease that has spread, instead you now may think “gosh, she may have psoriasis – which is not infectious but rather a problem with her immune system”.  If you need more info. on psoriasis, feel free to click the links to the side.  Thanks for your support!

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