Sick of the Psoriasis Stigma
- Zach McMullen, 39, has been suffering from severe psoriasis for 25 years, and has struggled to find dates—most recently because people mistake his skin condition for monkeypox, which is contagious. Psoriasis is not.
- When Zach is navigating the dating apps, he tries to tell potential love interests about his skin condition right away, and educates people that psoriasis can’t be spread.
- Psoriasis patches can vary in how they look on the skin. You might have a few spots with scaling similar to dandruff or rashes covering a large portion of your body. The most common places to see psoriasis patches are the lower back, elbows, knees, legs, soles of feet, scalp, face and palms.
“Dating is hard enough without adding a layer of fear on top of it,” he said. “It wears on a soul, having to talk about your physical imperfections with people, especially when you’re trying to explain to guys that they don’t have to be afraid to touch you.”
The communications director says that he has gotten trolled, accused of lying about his health situation—saying he has psoriasis to cover up the fact that he has monkeypox, which is unfortunate.
“People need to understand what monkeypox actually looks like [and they] shouldn’t ridicule others — even if they did have monkeypox.”
Zack recalled a time when he used a credit card, the woman “ferociously” scrubbed it down, appearing grossed out.
“People must be thinking ‘oh, he’s sick’. I’m not sick, this isn’t contagious,” Zach said. “I see people looking at my skin, seeing my lesions. I understand people’s reactions can be involuntary, like they don’t realize they’re wrinkling their nose or making a face.”
A Plea For Kindness
The physically and emotionally frustrated psoriasis sufferer turned to social media to beg people to please be kind.
“Be kind to your friends with psoriasis,” he wrote in a tweet that has garnered over 10,000 likes so far. “We don’t have monkeypox, we are still people who hurt when you recoil at the sight of us.”
Thankfully, Zach received some support from people with the same autoimmune condition, who understand what he’s going through.
“Can relate. I’ve got a couple visible patches myself. Not nearly as pronounced as yours but people freak out when they see it,” one person commented.
“Right there with you,” chimed in another. “Psoriasis showed up just in time for monkeypox season. I guess I’ll be in long sleeves when I go out.”
Learning More About Psoriasis
Psoriasis, in general, is a condition that affects up to 3.2 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It can cause the development of red, itchy patches on the skin. But there are many different types of the disease with plaque psoriasis being the most common.
“Psoriasis is a chronic, auto-immune skin condition where you have red, scaly patches on the skin,” Dr. Saakshi Khattri, a dermatologist/rheumatologist at Mount Sinai Health System, previously told SurvivorNet. “It is a chronic condition, which can ebb and flow. You can have good days and bad days.”
People with psoriasis are often asymptomatic, but uncomfortable outbreaks can happen. Psoriasis patches can vary in how they look on the skin. You might have a few spots with scaling similar to dandruff or rashes covering a large portion of your body. The most common places to see psoriasis patches are the lower back, elbows, knees, legs, soles of feet, scalp, face and palms.
“Some patients report itching [or a] burning sensation, but that doesn’t tend to be the norm. It certainly can happen,” Dr. Khattri explained. “Then if you have psoriasis in the genital area, it can feel uncomfortable just because it’s in a very sensitive part of the body. But for the most part, it tends to be asymptomatic.”
Symptoms associated with psoriasis include:
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- Small scaling spots
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed or itch
- Itching, burning, or soreness
- Thickened or ridged nails
- Swollen or stiff joints
If you ever start to notice red, scaly spots on your body, Dr. Khattri recommends you see a dermatologist right away so you get get a proper diagnosis and the proper care you need.