We’ve got your back. We asked psoriasis sufferers and their caregivers what well-meaning comments people routinely make that pushes their buttons. Avoid them, and you’ll avoid giving offense or making things awkward.
The Statement: “I didn’t even notice it!”
Why It Grates: Your friend knows you’re lying. After all, who could miss those patches of scaly red skin? “It makes me feel like you’re being dishonest with me to spare my feelings,” says Kate Shaw, a makeup artist in Indianapolis who was diagnosed with psoriasis five years ago. “Acknowledging that it’s a part of me helps me feel more supported—just wait until I bring it up, of course.” (Check out these 5 eating strategies that help fight psoriasis inflammation.)
The Statement: “You might be more comfortable wearing long pants.”
Why It Grates: It will make your friend even more self-conscious of her skin. “When you have psoriasis, you have to find peace with your body,” says Pam Smith, a 53-year-old Chicago resident who has suffered from the condition for more than a decade. “It took me a while, but now I’m happy showing my skin—even in board shorts and a bikini top.” Even if you’re trying to protect your friend from uncomfortable stares, nix the clothing advice.
The Statement: “My aunt had that and [insert random remedy] cured her.”
Why It Grates: “There isn’t a cure for psoriasis, and it’s frustrating that people don’t realize that,” says Terri Eggeman, a Tampa resident diagnosed in 2008. What’s more, the home remedies many people suggest—Smith’s family told her to rub banana peels on her skin—are often ridiculous. Want to be helpful? Offer to keep your friend company during a doc appointment, or just let her vent to you.
The Statement: “At least it’s just a skin rash.”
Why It Grates: Not only is this incorrect, but it makes psoriasis seem no more serious than a pimple or dry skin. “Psoriasis causes both skin and internal inflammation, putting sufferers at higher risk for other conditions,” points out Cynthia Trickett, a physician assistant at Texas Dermatology Associates Southwest Psoriasis Center in Dallas. In fact, psoriasis sufferers are 58% more likely to experience heart problems and 43% more likely to have a stroke, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. That’s not all: A sufferer’s odds of getting cancer, liver disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and a host of other illnesses are also elevated.
The Statement: “You don’t look sick!”
Why It Grates: Your friend may be in a lot of pain. “I want to scream when someone makes this comment because just walking, typing, or even opening the page of a book has been a challenge for me because the pain is excruciating,” says Diane Talbert, executive director of Psoriasis Network Support, who has lived with the condition since childhood.
The Statement: “What’s wrong with your skin?”
Why It Grates: You may think the person will find your forthrightness refreshing. But don’t let curiosity get the better of you. Many psoriasis sufferers find this question to be insulting even if you don’t ask it in a snarky way. “I would never ask an overweight person, ‘Why are you so big?’ ” Shaw says. “It’s just the worst when people ask me about my skin, and it happens at least once a week.” (Help fight pain and inflammation from the inside out with Heal Your Whole Body.)
The Statement: “I don’t want to catch it.”
Why It Grates: Psoriasis isn’t contagious—even with skin-to-skin contact. “I can swim in the same pool as you, touch you, kiss you, and hold your baby,” says Talbert. The condition can be inherited, however, so that’s why it’s common to see it among multiple family members. “My son used to tell his classmates that his plaques were like bug bites,” says Jaime Lyn Moy, who has had the condition for a decade. They’re red and itchy like bug bites. And, like bug bites, they can’t be spread from person to person.