Psoriasis and cold sores, the most stigmatized skin disorders: Study

Psoriasis and cold sores, the most stigmatized skin disorders: StudyA recent study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology indicates that cold sores and psoriasis rule the roost when it comes to stigmatized skin conditions. However, experts believe the sufferers are victims of misguided ill will.

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis, which is believed to be caused by genetic and environmental triggers, is the most common autoimmune condition in the United States. About 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis.


On the other hand, cold sores are caused by a virus and typically get cured within days. The sores vary in size and appear on or near the lips. Like with psoriasis, millions of Americans are affected but, unlike psoriasis, cold sores are contagious to the touch.

In the survey that included 56 people, researchers used an image-based questionnaire to determine people’s views at an outpatient dermatology clinic at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The average age of the study participants was 43. There were two important criteria for selection for the study. The first — none of the participants should have or have had any self-reported skin condition other than teenage acne. The second — nobody worked in the healthcare field.

The participants were showen images of common skin conditions such as acne, atopic dermatitis or eczema, vitiligo, cold sores, rosacea, warts, tinea versicolor (a fungal infection causing rash), and psoriasis. They were then asked to share their opinions about the psoriasis lesions in comparison with the other skin lesions.

Almost fifty percent of the participants felt upset by the psoriasis images. Their abhorrence of psoriasis was mostly attributed to the thickness, color, and size of lesions.

While significantly more participants were upset by the cold sore images, the study authors felt that psoriasis may have a greater overall impact because its skin lesions are chronic.

The team found that almost 61 percent wrongly thought that psoriasis looked contagious, and about ninety percent said they would pity a person who had it. The stigma attached to cold sores was lesser, but still almost 40 percent felt that herpes simplex, commonly referred to as cold sore, is the most bothersome skin condition.

According to Dr. Alexa Kimball, director of the Clinical Unit for Research Trials and Outcomes in Skin at Massachusetts General Hospital and also a dermatology professor at Harvard Medical School, many people with psoriasis complain that they are often stared at and asked not to participate in certain activities because of the appearance of their skin. This study confirms the complaint.

Dr. Kimball said the researchers were aware (from earlier studies) that psoriasis — which produces widespread, scaly red skin lesions — seemed to hold more of a stigma than other skin diseases, and so they did the current study to try to find out the reasons that contributed to the stigma.

According to Dr. Kimball, the team suspected that the look of the skin lesion contributes immensely to the mistaken belief that it is infectious, but they were quite surprised at how strong the negative reaction to psoriasis is. However, they believe these results provide an obvious opportunity to educate the general public that psoriasis is not contagious and it can’t be spread.

Psoriasis home remedies

Even though there is no known cure for this autoimmune skin disorder, there are many natural remedies for psoriasis that help ease the symptoms. Here are 10 ways to manage mild psoriasis symptoms from the comfort of your home.

1. Take dietary supplements: Natural supplements like vitamin D, fish oil, aloe vera, Oregon grape, milk thistle, and evening primrose oil have been reported to help ease mild symptoms of psoriasis.

2. Hydrate: Drink a lot of water and use a humidifier to keep the air in your home or office moist. Sensitive skin moisturizers are also great at keeping your skin supple and prevent plaque formation.

3. Avoid chemicals: Most perfumes and soaps have dyes and other chemicals that could irritate your skin and also can inflame psoriasis. Sure, they can make you smell great, but is it worth it?

4. Eat healthy: Red meats and fatty snacks can trigger flare-ups. Avoid them. Replace these psoriasis triggers with omega-3 fatty acids, cold water fish, seeds, nuts, and other foods that are known to help reduce inflammation. Another food item —olive oil — can soothe the skin when applied topically to the lesion. Massaging a few tablespoons on your scalp before a shower can help loosen troublesome plaques.

5. Take warm baths: A lukewarm bath with mineral oils, Epsom salt, olive oil, or even milk can soothe the itching and infiltrate scales and plaques. For added relief, moisturize immediately after your bath.

6. Try light therapy: Frequent and consistent exposure of the lesions to ultraviolet light under medical supervision can help soothe them. However, it must be noted that tanning beds and excessive sunlight can actually worsen psoriasis.

7. De-stress: Stress is a big catalyst of symptoms of chronic skin conditions like psoriasis. Incorporating stress-reducing practices such as meditation and yoga into your daily routine can help manage stress better.

8. Avoid alcohol: A study from Harvard Medical School found an increased risk of psoriasis among women who drank nonlight beer.

9. Take turmeric: Turmeric has been shown to reduce psoriasis flare-ups. It can be applied directly to the lesion, taken in pill or supplement form, or sprinkled on your food. According to the FDA, one can safely take in up to three grams of this soothing spice per day.

10. Stop smoking: Smoking not only increases your risk of psoriasis, but if you already have the lesions, it can cause severe flare-ups of your symptoms.

Home remedies for cold sores

Cold sores are actually a symptom of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). They can pop up at any time and are triggered by things like sun exposure, hormonal fluctuations, fevers, illness, surgery, or even stress. While the sore itself is unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to calm or shorten the duration of a cold sore. Here are a few tips on how to cure cold sores at home:

1. Lemon balm: A member of the mint family, lemon balm may help reduce the healing time of a blister and prevent future outbreaks. A compress made of a lemon balm infusion (tea) can provide similar benefits to a lip balm with at least one percent lemon balm.

2. Lysine: Lysine is an amino acid found as a supplement or in cream form. Lysine supplements can help prevent cold sores and prevent future flare-ups.

3. Stress reduction: Meditation, regular exercise, yoga, and any other method that helps you manage your stress better can prevent the herpes virus from coming out of dormancy and form cold sores.

4. Ice: A cold ice compress may not reduce the duration of a breakout, but it can provide welcome relief to discomfort caused by the sores.

5. Aloe Vera: Studies show that applying aloe vera either in the form of a cream or a lotion topically can aid in healing the lesions of genital herpes (HSV-2).

6. Zinc oxide: Applying zinc oxide within 24 hours of symptoms appearing can also shorten the length of an outbreak. Studies show that applying the zinc oxide cream to the sore can reduce symptoms like itching, soreness, and blistering.

As you can see, there are many ways for getting relief from the symptoms of psoriasis and cold sores. And, as is the case with many skin conditions, what works for one person may not work for another. Try them one after the other until you find one that works best for you. If you’re lucky, you may ‘strike gold’ in the first try itself. But remember, while these home remedies may help with mild cases, prescription therapy might be warranted for more severe cases. A quick visit to the doctor might not be a bad idea.

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Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.