Lifewatch: Psoriasis

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you get poison oak it goes away, but if you're diagnosed with the skin disease psoriasis, you have the condition forever.

It is a skin problem that affects men and women of all ages and races equally.

It can crop up at any age, but if you have psoriasis, there is a good chance you will start seeing symptoms between your teenage years and your mid-30s.

Jenna Betro is living with the incurable disease and was 17 years old when she was diagnosed.

"Red, dry, flaky and you never feel like you're clean or like yourself because there's something constantly on you when you look at yourself. You don't recognize yourself when you look in the mirror," said Betro.

Betro's not alone.  According to The National Institutes of Health, more than 7 million Americans have psoriasis.

"Psoriasis is a condition where the skin is hyperactive. And you end up with a lot of scaly patches all over your body or it could be localized on the elbow and knees," said Dr. Sandhya Yadav.

But, as Betro found, psoriasis impacts more than your skin.

"It really affected all my social aspects, interactions with friends and relationships," said Betro.

Partially, because many people think it is contagious.

"And it's really not contagious in any way shape or form," said Dr. Yadav.

But it can be passed from parent to child, genetically.

While there is no cure, there are treatments for psoriasis, including standing in a light box where patients are exposed to one specific wave length of light that helps minimize flare ups.

Betro also discovered that injections of medicine, reducing stress, having a well balanced diet, and getting lots of sun can help as well.

Reported by Kristy Ondo