Stigmatizing views and myths about psoriasis are pervasive

The stigma associated with the autoimmune disease psoriasis may lead people to avoid those who show signs of the condition, including not wanting to date, shake hands, or have people in their homes if they suffer from the disease. New multidisciplinary research involving both psychologists and dermatologists from the Perelman School of Medicine is the first to examine how common this stigma may be among the general population of the United States as well as among medical students. The study also found false perceptions about psoriasis continue to persist, including the belief that psoriasis is contagious and that it is not a serious illness. Researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.


Psoriasis is a common, chronic autoimmune disease affecting more than eight million Americans, causing painful, thick, red patches on the skin that often itch and bleed. It is not contagious, and while it is treatable, there is currently no cure.

“Although it’s widely recognized that the appearance of psoriasis can negatively  impact patients’  social, professional, and intimate relationships, we wanted to quantify the perceptions patients with psoriasis face on a daily basis in order to understand how pervasive they are,” says the study’s senior author Joel M. Gelfand, a professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Penn. 

Researchers used a web-based data collection service to survey people about their perceptions of individuals with psoriasis. All participants were shown images of people with psoriasis as well as close up photos of psoriasis lesions.

Overall, more than half of the respondents said they did not want to date someone with psoriasis, and one-third said they did not want to shake hands with someone suffering from the disease or have them in their homes. Respondents also endorsed several stereotypes about people with psoriasis. Among participants, those who knew someone with psoriasis or had heard of psoriasis demonstrated less stigmatizing attitudes.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.