Psoriasis Sucks, But It Gives You A Secret Superpower

There's a silver lining in those aggravating red patches.
Publish date:
October 18, 2013
science, studies, eczema, psoriasis, issues

I'm not even going to attempt to pretend to know what it's like to have psoriasis. I've got my own autoimmune crap to deal with, but none of it shows up on my skin.

Celebrities like Cara Delevingne, LeAnn Rimes and Kim Kardashian have shared stories of how their red, scaly patches have caused them embarrassment and discomfort, but no matter how many stories you hear, it's hard to understand any condition unless you've experienced it.

Oddly enough, though, there's actually a pretty interesting benefit to having psoriasis, according to new research.

Researchers at the umlautastic Universitätsmedizin Berlin compared skin with the two most common chronic skin diseases, eczema (atopic dermatitis) and psoriasis, in a study that appears in the latest issue of my favorite magazine and yours, Science Translational Medicine. Eczema sucks big-time, too, and I'm not trying to start an argument over which is worse, but apparently skin with psoriasis has a perk that skin with eczema doesn't: crazy-good protection against viral infections!

Even though both conditions cause damage to the skin barrier, often in a visible way, only folks with eczema have been shown to get a ton of cutaneous viral infections, which--no kidding--could lead to death. Death, y'all! (Please don't die, Faz.)

Turns out it all comes down to an "immune messenger" called interleukin-29, which sounds like a undiscovered Joseph Heller novel.

"Interleukin-29 is present in psoriatic skin, but not in affected skin of atopic dermatitis patients," study co-author Dr. Kerstin Wolk explains. And this interleukin-29 is produced by immune cells called Th17 (pronounced thseventeen?), which help make antiviral proteins and, therefore, promote antiviral defenses in psoriatic skin. (The health kind, not the computer kind.)

Basically, people with psoriasis have a MAGIC FORCEFIELD AGAINST VIRUSES. That is a legit superpower, I'm pretty sure.

Of course, this doesn't mean those of you with psoriasis should stop washing your hands or getting flu shots. It just means you're way less likely to get a viral infection than your eczematic friends. Again--not a competition.

However, it's nice to know there's a bright side to something so frustrating.

Do you have psoriasis? What's the most annoying thing about dealing with it? Do you find you don't get sick much? Let's get anecdotal!