Psoriasis is a skin condition that shows up as red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales. It occurs when skin cells are replaced more quickly than usual. It's an autoimmune disease, which basically means your body thinks healthy cells are foreign bodies so it attacks them and increases its production of new skin cells to replace the old ones.
The creation of new skin cells normally takes around three to four weeks. In people with psoriasis, this process only takes about three to seven days.
2. It can affect any part of the body
Patches normally appear on the scalp, elbows, and knees, but can appear anywhere on the body and is usually itchy and sore.
The symptoms can be unique, there are many different types of psoriasis, and the severity of the condition varies greatly from person to person. It doesn't just exhibit externally—the skin condition can have a severe impact on the mental health of those living with it, as well as increased appearance of other inflammatory disease such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
3. It's absolutely NOT contagious (so no need to keep your distance)
One of the much-mistaken features of psoriasis is that it is contagious. You're in absolutely no danger of contracting the skin condition.
As it's still so widely misunderstood, campaigners who have experienced issues like being questioned before boarding a plane are fighting to create awareness. One woman, Holly Dillon, photographed her psoriasis journey, documenting her daily treatment routine as part of her #getyourskinout campaign.
4. Diagnosis is tricky
And because of this, it's often misdiagnosed. Holly says that as a 14-year-old, she was initially told she had acne before her skin condition was eventually confirmed as psoriasis at the age of 18—by which time it covered 98 percent of her body.
In a resolution by the World Health Organisation, it's said that much of the suffering caused by this common and complex disease can be avoided, and that many people in the world suffer needlessly due to incorrect or delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment options, insufficient access to care, and social stigmatization.
5. It's more common than you think
Around 1.8 million people in the UK live with psoriasis, which is 2-3 percent of people—a pretty high number. So even if you don't have it yourself, you probably know someone who does.
Symptoms usually start appearing in the teenage years and mostly affect young women under 35; however, symptoms can start at any age and affect either sex. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West and Cara Delevingne have spoken publicly about their experiences of living with psoriasis.
6. It takes a toll on your mental health
Psoriasis isn't just a skin condition—it makes everyday activities and events a constant challenge. If you live with psoriasis, it pervades every aspect of your life– dating, sex, swimming, gym changing rooms, Christmas parties, and so on.
A recent study of 1,400 people living with psoriasis showed they are 24 percent less happy than the average Brit.
7. It knocks your confidence
The research by Danish LEO Innovation Lab found direct links between how happy a person feels and the condition of their skin, and said that half of people with psoriasis say they have low self-esteem and 41 percent say they rarely feel confident.
People with psoriasis are more likely to be unhappy if they have a lower income, or if their skin condition is on exposed parts of the body such as the face, hands, or feet.
8. It's usually worse in winter
It's a chronic disease that usually involves periods when you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by times when it's more severe.
Winter can be a troubling time for people living with the skin condition, because they no longer have the beneficial rays of the sun and that the dry environment may cause further inflammation in the skin. Holly says her skin is clear in summer and worse in winter.
9. There's no cure
There's no cure, but treatments are available and symptoms can be managed by understanding triggers (when symptoms start or become worse because of a certain event), leading a healthy lifestyle, and managing stress levels.
Embracing, rather than fighting a skin condition, and having a good support network of understanding people, can help keep confidence high.
10. You can do something practical to help
If you live with psoriasis or know someone who does, download the PsoHappy App, which helps those living with the condition monitor feelings of well-being and happiness, so they can take back control of how psoriasis affects their mental health.
All this inside knowledge courtesy of Dr John Zibert, PhD, Psoriasis Expert and Chief Medical Officer at LEO Innovation Lab.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.