When it comes to facing the stigma of psoriasis, there's one incident that
sticks out in Robert Schwartz's mind: the time he was kicked out of a
restaurant because of his condition.
After sitting down with a plate of food from a buffet, he remembers being
approached by the restaurant manager and quizzed about his condition. "I tried
to explain I was not contagious," says Schwartz, a Las Vegas man who has
psoriasis on 75% of his body. He suggested that the manager could confirm it
with any doctor.
If you have itchy red skin that's covered with tiny blisters filled with white or yellow pus, you may have pustular psoriasis. It's a rare skin disease that causes pain and itching. You may have fever, nausea, and other symptoms, too.
One form of pustular psoriasis that spreads to involve a large portion of your body needs to be treated at once by a doctor. See your doctor quickly if you think you might have it. He'll look at your skin, take a blood sample, and swab the pus that's inside a blister...
But the manager was adamant. Schwartz could take food to-go, but he wasn't
allowed to eat with everyone else. "I felt dejected," says Schwartz.
Schwartz has many other stories about the stigma of psoriasis -- being
ordered by a casino employee to put on a long-sleeved shirt to cover his skin,
being told he couldn't try on clothing at a store. Tragically, his
experiences are not unusual. There are 7.5 million people in the U.S. with
psoriasis. Many face similar humiliations day after day.
"I hear it all," says Mark Lebwohl, MD, chairman of the medical board of the
National Psoriasis Foundation. "I hear about people with psoriasis being turned
away from hairdressers, kicked out of swimming pools, and prevented from
donating blood at blood banks."
The stigma of psoriasis can be crushing. But how can a person with psoriasis
fight back against ignorance and prejudice? WebMD turned to some psoriasis
experts to find out.
Living With Psoriasis
"The impact of psoriasis on a person's life is profound," says Robert
Brodell, MD, a dermatologist at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of
Medicine. "You're wearing the disease on the outside of your body." And even
though it's not infectious, people tend to see the symptoms and connect them
with whatever deadly diseases are making news. "People might assume it's HIV,
or drug-resistant staph," says Brodell.
The stigma of psoriasis can quickly undermine the confidence of even the
most self-assured. Well-meaning family members and friends may suggest you
ignore how other people react. That's fine advice, but it's often not
realistic. If someone flinches when you offer your hand, it's not something you
forget. It's an experience that can radically change how you feel about